The Other College Admission Test: SAT Subject Tests



Most students and parents are aware of SAT's and ACT's as college admission tests, but many are not familiar with the SAT Subject test. These are one-hour tests that are usually only required by highly selective colleges (such as Cal Tech and Carnegie Melon) or strongly recommended by others (Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Georgetown). Some colleges require SAT Subject tests for specific majors, like engineering or health professions. Students need to check the requirements of each college on their target list to find out if they need to schedule subject tests.

There may be other reasons a student may want to take SAT Subject tests:
  • to demonstrate proficiency in specific areas
  • to be able to "place out" of lower level college courses 
  • to strengthen a college application

Home-schooled and international students also use the SAT Subject test as a way to demonstrate proficiency to colleges.  

SAT Subject Tests are offered in:

  • English Literature 
  • US History 
  • World History 
  • Math (Level 1 and Level 2) 
  • Biology  
  • Chemistry 
  • Physics  
  • and in several foreign languages


    Students should take subject tests (up to three tests can be taken during one sitting available on most regular SAT testing dates) while course material is fresh in their head. That means a sophomore who just took biology, may want to consider taking the Biology subject test at the end of sophomore year. This takes some planning ahead as there are only seven SAT test dates per year and many students take the regular SAT's two or three times. Sophomores and juniors, especially those with highly selective colleges in mind, should be thinking about a test schedule now to make sure they take the tests needed in the time-frame required.