What's an SAT Subject Test? And do you have to take it?


If you’ve been studying for the ACT and/or SAT, you might have stumbled on something called an SAT Subject Test that made you confused or panicked or both. But before you start worrying, it’s important to understand the SAT Subject Test basics.

First of all, you almost definitely don’t HAVE to take them. There’s a small handful of Ivy League-type schools that require SAT Subject Tests, but the vast majority of colleges don’t. However, just because they aren’t required doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider taking them since they’re an effective way to bolster your college resume and stand out from your peers.

Subject tests are exactly what their name implies: tests on specific topics like Biology, US History, Math, Literature, Spanish, etc. Each test is 60 minutes, contains only multiple choice answers, and is out of 800 points. The tests are offered on the same day the regular SAT, so a lot of students end up taking more than one subject test in a day.

The reason colleges like seeing that you took a subject test or two is that you can show off your knowledge on a wide range of topics. Let’s say you took the Literature test and the Biology test; since those topics don’t often go together, colleges will be impressed that you have a brain for both of them.

The easiest answer to whether or not you should take SAT Subject Tests is to first see if your school requires it. You can quickly find out that information in this constantly updated link. More than likely, your school doesn’t require it, so in that case, you should think about what your best subjects are in school. A good rule-of-thumb is that you should take a subject tests if you’re also taking an AP class in that subject. Testing dates for SAT Subject Tests always fall in the weekend between the two weeks of AP testing. If you’re going to put in all the work to make sure you do really well on your AP tests, you probably should put that hard work to good use and also take a subject test.