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SAT Subject Tests
SAT Subject Tests are exams designed to reflect student's knowledge and ability in particular subject areas. They are often a better reflection of student's strengths than the more general SAT test, and many schools require prospective students to take these tests as an admission requirement.
Should you take one?
The short answer is yes. You should definitely consider taking an SAT Subject Test as part of demonstrating your strong candidacy for university admissions. Which test to take and when to take it are more complicated questions to answer. Above all, consider your strengths and the requirements of your schools and programs of interest.
Which SAT Subject Test(s) should you take?
Many schools require SAT Subject Test scores for admission. Before you decide whether to take the SAT Subject Tests, research your schools of interest and their admission requirements. If you don't know which school you are going to, consider all areas that you are interested in and plan to take tests that will best showcase your strengths. Generally speaking, Ivy League schools and other high-caliber schools will require you to take SAT Subject Tests. Don't put yourself at a disadvantage by not taking any.
Some schools require three exams, Harvard for example, but they don't specify which tests are required. In this case it is important to take tests from different subject areas, spanning the typical curriculum to demonstrate a broad range of skills. If you are interested in a particular program, such as a language or science, plan to take the SAT Subject Test for that subject as well.
Choose subjects that you will be successful with to demonstrate your college-readiness. You might also find it helpful to take an SAT Subject Test for a subject that you received a poor grade in, if you are able to excel on the exam. This might demonstrate to college admissions boards that you are strong in this subject, even if for some reason your grades say otherwise.
Which Math test should you take?
Many schools and programs focusing on science, engineering, or computer and software development will require you to take an SAT Subject test in Math. If the level is not specified by the school, choose the one you will perform best on, but don't take both. Schools will not look at multiple math test scores for students. If you are able to do well on the higher level exam you should choose that one.
If you've only taken Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry, choose the Level 1 test. The level 2 test goes beyond these basic math concepts to demonstrate an advanced mathematical ability and you will not receive a high score unless you've studied advanced math.
When should you take the Subject Test(s)?
Plan early and research the schools you are interested in applying to so that you know if your school and program of interest requires any SAT Subject Tests. If you can, plan to take a particular test soon after completing that course. When the information is fresh in your mind from studying a subject, you might be able to score higher on the Subject Test.
If you are also taking AP exams, plan your schedule so that you are not overwhelmed with tests and that you are taking tests at the appropriate time in your coursework to best demonstrate your skills.
What scores do you need?
While no schools in the U.S. strictly require that you have strong SAT Subject Test scores, they certainly take your scores into consideration. There is no minimum score for admission set, even about the top universities in the nation, but having a score close to or above 700 in any subject area is a good start. If you are able to score in the upper 600s through 700s in a subject area on the practice exams, you will be in good shape to do well on the actual SAT Subject Test.
Past admissions records show that many students admitted to Ivy League schools score highly in Math and Science, with scores above 700 on both tests.