Your Guide to SAT II

Spanning the sciences, math, humanities and languages, SAT II Subject Tests come in 20 different subjects. There are tests for Literature, U.S. History, Biology, French, German, Japanese, and more. With so many options to choose from, it may be difficult to decide how many to take and which ones to select.

When deciding on what tests to take, the first thing to look at is the recommendations and requirements of the schools and programs you are applying to. Most selective colleges recommend applicants to submit scores for any two subject tests of their choosing, while some engineering schools may require tests such as Chemistry, Physics, or Math Level 2. Even fewer colleges suggest as many as three subject tests, while others go the completely opposite direction and state that they will not require the tests and not consider them even if they are submitted. Make sure to do the research you need to do before moving on to decide which tests to take.

Once you look at the requirements and recommendations of your colleges, it’s time to think about which subjects to pick. As previously stated, you will probably be able to pick any subject that you want unless you are applying for departments that specify which ones they want you to take. If you’re applying for programs that have specific requirements, make sure that you find out what those specific requirements are and note them. In most cases, you will not need to take any additional tests on top of the requirements. In the case that there is no requirement stated, you can take any of the 20 subject tests depending on the availability of subject tests in your area. However, we would recommend that you take the subject tests of subjects that you are most interested in or possibly want to study in college. For example, if you want to apply for a political science degree at college, we would recommend that you take at least one history subject test (so that’s either the SAT Subject Test in United States History or the SAT Subject Test in World History) and one foreign language subject test. If you want to study English at college, we would recommend taking the SAT Subject Test in Literature and one of the history subject tests. 

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Furthermore, it would be ideal if the SAT Subject Tests that you take are similar to subjects that you are already taking at school so as to minimize the amount of stress and preparation needed for the tests. It may seem redundant, but colleges will not penalize you for taking, for example, the SAT Subject Test in Chinese while you’re also taking regular Chinese classes at school. The same applies when thinking about how to consider IB and AP subjects when choosing your SAT Subject Tests. For instance, if you’re taking IB or AP Biology, feel free to take the SAT Subject Test in Biology. The reason why it doesn’t matter if your SAT Subject Tests overlap with your regular school subjects is because the format and intensity of each type of test is different. For example, AP tests are usually seen as being more in-depth and intricate than SAT subject tests are. However, this isn’t to say that you should be taking all AP subjects and not taking any SAT subject tests: taking both the SAT subject test and the AP test for a particular subject may show your strong dedication and interest in a subject. This may help inform the admissions officer about your particular interests and thus give a fuller understanding of what kind of person you are. 

However, students may find themselves unsatisfied with their scores. You may choose to take the test again like with the regular SAT, or you may choose not to send your Subject Test score at all. When deciding on whether to send a score or not, first consider what the average score may be for the year you plan on taking the test by researching the averages from the previous years. For example, the average score for the SAT Subject Test in Literature in 2016 was 599. That meant that out of everyone who took the test that year, most people got around a 599 on their test. Anything above that will be considered a good score. Next, consider the type of school you are applying for. For the most prestigious colleges, you often want to send SAT II scores that are above 700, or in other words, something far above the average. For other colleges that may not be so competitive but are still highly selective, you may consider sending in anything that is above the average. 

Overall, SAT Subject Tests will always be an additional boon rather than a detriment to your application. Taking them will show your dedication and interest in a particular subject, which is especially useful when you want to demonstrate your interest in a specific major or, if you don’t know what major you want yet, what direction you are thinking of going in. Good luck!