FAQs About the SAT Subject Tests

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Get answers to your questions about Subject Tests

What is it like to take SAT Subject Tests?

All SAT Subject Tests are one-hour, multiple-choice tests. In any given sitting of the SAT Subject Tests, you can take one, two or three tests. You choose the tests that you want to take and how many you would like to take per sitting (up to three). While we ask for this information when you register, you are free to change which tests and the number of tests that you want to take on test day (except for Language with Listening tests).

Some SAT Subject Tests have unique formats and may require use of special equipment (e.g., calculators for Mathematics Level 1 and Level 2 tests, CD players for Languages with Listening tests). For more information regarding test format and important things to know for the tests that you’re interested in, visit the practice page for each test.

When should you take SAT Subject Tests?

In general, you’ll want to take SAT Subject Tests right after you’ve completed the recommended classes because the material will still be fresh in your mind. In some cases, this may mean spring of your freshmen or sophomore year. For the language tests, however, you should consider taking these tests after you’ve studied the language for at least two years.

Check the recommended preparation guidelines for each Subject Test (click on each subject to view) to make sure you’ve completed the recommended course work.

Since not all Subject Tests are offered on every test date, check to see when the Subject Tests that you’re interested in are offered.

You should also balance this with college application deadlines. If you’re interested in applying Early Decision or Early Action to any college, many colleges advise that you take the SAT Subject Tests by October or November of your senior year. For regular decision applications, some colleges will accept SAT Subject Test scores through the January administration. Use College Search to look up policies for specific colleges.

Not sure when you should schedule your SAT Subject Tests? Talk to your school counselor or teacher to figure out the timing that works best for you.

What is the difference between SAT Subject Tests and Advanced Placement classes and exams?

SAT Subject Tests are high school–level tests, reflecting high school curricula. These tests indicate a student’s readiness to take college-level courses in specific subject areas. AP® Exams, however, assess a student’s college-level knowledge, skills and abilities, learned in the corresponding AP courses. As a result, the topics covered on SAT Subject Tests may differ from those covered on AP Exams, with AP Exams typically covering more advanced topics with a greater depth that is more reflective of a college-level course.

While AP exams are also an excellent way to demonstrate understanding in specific subject areas, not all students have an opportunity to take AP courses across a broad range of subjects and in time to meet college admission deadlines. For students who lack access to AP and still wish to demonstrate subject knowledge, the Subject Tests offer this opportunity.

In general, students who have taken more rigorous courses (e.g., honors, AP, IB, dual enrollment) are better prepared for the SAT Subject Tests. However, advanced or college-level course work is not required to do well on the SAT Subject Tests.

Should I take SAT Subject Tests if I’ve already taken other college admission tests (e.g., SAT or ACT)?

Some colleges require or recommend SAT Subject Tests in addition to the SAT or ACT. Some also use these for course placement once you’ve arrived on campus. Depending on your performance, you may potentially fulfill basic requirements or even receive credit for introductory-level courses.

In determining if Subject Tests are right for you, you should consider that SAT Subject Tests are the only national admission tests where you choose the tests that best showcase your achievements and interests. By taking one or more SAT Subject Tests, you have an opportunity to highlight your unique strengths or areas of interest (mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, literature and foreign languages).

If you’re interested in particular subjects or programs of study, this would be an excellent opportunity for you to complement or enhance your admission credentials and send a strong message to colleges about your readiness to study certain majors or programs. In conjunction with other information in your other admission credentials (your high school record, SAT scores, teacher recommendation, etc.), they provide a more complete picture of your academic background and interests. Find out more about whether Subject Tests are right for you.

How many SAT Subject Tests are available?

There are 20 SAT Subject Tests divided into five categories: English, history, mathematics, science and languages.

Here’s a complete list of all the Subject Tests:

When can I take SAT Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests are generally offered six times in any given school year. However, not all 20 tests are offered during every administration. Visit our Register page for dates when specific Subject Tests are offered. You should note that the Language with Listening tests are only offered during the November administration.

SAT Subject Tests are generally offered on the same dates that the SAT is offered. As administration of both the SAT and SAT Subject Tests are concurrent, students may not take both the SAT and SAT Subject Tests during the same administration.

Where do I take SAT Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests are administered at the same test centers as the SAT. Visit our Register page to find out where you can take SAT Subject Tests and to sign up early to get a seat at the nearest location.

What is the best way to prepare for SAT Subject Tests?

Because the SAT Subject Tests are based on high school–subject course work, the best way to prepare for them is by learning the material taught in the corresponding classes and using the textbooks that you’re already using for those classes.

Additionally, students should visit the SAT Subject Test Practice section for more information on the format and topics covered on each Subject Test as well as free practice questions to help you get a feel for the format of the questions.

Students can also take advantage of free and affordable SAT Subject Test practice tools to become familiar with the tests. These include:

Should I still take the SAT Subject Test if there are a few topics on the test that weren’t covered in my class?

If there are some practice questions or topics that you’re not familiar with because you haven’t studied them in your classes, don’t worry. The SAT Subject Tests are national tests meant to cover topics learned in the majority of high school classrooms across the country. However, what’s taught in one classroom is not necessarily the same as what’s taught in another classroom, even if both are teaching the same subject. As such, it is possible that you may not have covered every single topic on the test. Furthermore, you do not have to get every question on each test correct to receive the highest score (800) for that test. Many students do well on the tests despite not having studied every topic covered on the test.

If you’re still concerned, seek help from your teacher to review the topics that you’re not familiar with.

Does Score Choice apply to SAT Subject Tests?

Yes. Score Choice is an optional feature that allows students to choose which SAT Subject Test scores they’d like to send to colleges, in accordance with each institution’s stated score-use practice. If Score Choice is not used, all scores are sent to the selected score recipients. Students should still feel comfortable sending all scores, since most colleges consider a student’s best scores.

Are there Fee Waivers for SAT Subject Tests?

Yes. Eligible students may receive two fee waivers to take SAT Subject Tests across two sittings. Students may take up to three SAT Subject Tests in each sitting. These are in addition to the fee waivers given for the SAT. To allow students to take Subject Tests close to when they complete the course, SAT Subject Test fee waivers may be used by students in grades 9 through 12. Learn more about fee waivers.

Who comes up with the questions?

The questions on the SAT Subject Tests are developed by high school teachers, college professors and other education experts. This diverse group makes sure that the tests reflect what you are learning in school. After the questions are developed, they are also put through a rigorous review and pretesting process at high schools across the country to ensure that each question is fair for students from all backgrounds.

Are SAT Subject Tests used for anything other than college admission and placement?

SAT Subject Tests are used for other purposes beyond college admission and placement.

If you live in New York State, you may be able to use SAT Subject Test scores to substitute for a Regents examination score. Speak with your counselor or teacher to see if this might be appropriate for you.

Some colleges allow you to use SAT Subject Test scores to meet minimum subject-based requirements to be eligible to apply for admission (e.g., University of California’s a-g requirements, Arizona State University’s subject competency requirements).

Does the College Board sell SAT test prep products over the telephone?

No, we do not. The College Board makes every effort to protect a student's privacy. When a student takes a College Board exam [such as the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT® or Advanced Placement (AP®)] they have a choice to "opt in" to Student Search Service (SSS). If the student says yes, this enables the College Board to provide that student's basic information to eligible colleges and universities, scholarship programs and certain higher education enrichment opportunities.

While the College Board recommends that students take advantage of our free and low cost practice tools in order to help them do their best on test day, it is our strict policy to NOT sell student information to test preparation companies nor are such companies affiliated with the College Board.

We recommend the following precautions if you receive unsolicited calls from persons identifying themselves as belonging to a test preparation company:

  • Never give credit card information
  • Don’t commit to a purchase regardless of the caller’s high pressure tactics
  • Get the company’s contact information and the name of the caller; ask for a call-back number
  • Contact your local consumer affairs office, Better Business Bureau and/or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if the company continues to make unsolicited phone calls

To learn more about our Student Search Service policy, go to http://www.collegeboard.com/sss/help/policiesandguidelines/authorizedusage/index.html

Please don’t hesitate to contact the College Board’s Student Search Service (SearchCustomerService@collegeboard.com) if you have additional questions or concerns.

The Official Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests™: 
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Subject Test Study Guide

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SAT Subject Tests

Should you take an SAT Subject Test?

The SAT Subject Tests offer you an additional opportunity to show colleges what you know and what you know you can do.

Many colleges use the SAT Subject Tests for admission, for course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Some colleges specify the SAT Subject Tests that they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take.

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