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What Are SAT Subject Tests?

While the SAT serves as an assessment of your career and college-readiness, it is not the only standardized test used by college admissions committees as they make important decisions about your application. SAT Subject Tests are among the other tests considered by the admissions committees at many colleges and universities.

 

These tests, like the SAT, are administered formally six times each school year, but unlike the SAT, they do not expressly measure your ability to analyze and problem-solve. Instead, SAT Subject Tests assess your content area knowledge in specific subjects. SAT Subject Tests aim to highlight your strengths in areas that might otherwise be less apparent on college applications. They can also serve to indicate your interests and intended path in higher education.

 

Although SAT Subject Tests are not a universal requirement by all colleges or universities, they are not an uncommon one either. Some colleges require a specific number of SAT Subject Test scores, allowing you to choose which tests you take and submit. Other colleges might require you to take specific SAT Subject Tests. Still, others may not require any subject tests at all for general admissions and place Subject Test requirements only for certain programs or paths of study.

 

Even if the schools you’re applying to don’t require SAT Subject Tests, they are still a great way to set yourself apart in a competitive pool of candidates, and they can also help to create a more complete picture of you as an applicant. SAT Subject Tests are a great choice if you have specific academic strengths that you wish to highlight or reaffirm on your college applications.

 

To learn more about them, read CollegeVine’s What Are SAT Subject Tests. Read on for a complete list of all SAT Subject Tests.

 

SAT Subject Tests

There are plenty of SAT Subject Tests to choose from. There are 20 SAT Subject Test offerings that span five subject areas. Each test consists of multiple-choice questions and lasts for one hour.

 

MATH

There are two levels of Math SAT Subject Tests.

 

Math Level 1:

Math Level 1 contains 50 multiple-choice questions and assesses the knowledge you should have gained from three years of college-prep level math courses. This coursework should include at least two years of algebra and one year of geometry. A calculator is permitted on this test.

 

You should take this test if: You’re interested in pursuing math-based programs of study (science, technology, engineering, economics, etc.) but have not learned the content of Math Level 2 or did not do well in precalculus or trigonometry.

 

Math Level 2:

Math Level 2 also contains 50 multiple-choice questions and assesses the same material as the Mathematics Level 1 test, with the addition of trigonometry and elementary functions. The emphasis of Math Level 2 is on more-advanced content, such as precalculus.

 

You should take this test if: You have taken trigonometry or elementary functions (precalculus) or both, and you received grades of B or better in these courses. You should also be comfortable knowing when and how to use a scientific or graphing calculator, which is permitted on the test.

 

ENGLISH

There is only one English SAT Subject test and it is Literature. Other English-based skills are assessed on the primary SAT test.

 

Literature:

The Literature SAT Subject test contains about 60 multiple-choice questions and highlights your strength in reading and interpreting literary texts from a variety of historical periods and genres. There are six to eight sets of questions on the test, each based on a different literary text, and texts tend to vary widely on each test.

 

You should take this test if: You perform well in high-level English classes, enjoy studying literature, and plan to pursue an academic track in the humanities or liberal arts

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGES

There are two formats of foreign language SAT Subject tests: foreign languages with listening components and foreign languages without listening components.

 

Foreign Languages with Listening component:

Six languages are available as Language with Listening SAT Subject Tests. These tests contain between 70-85 multiple-choice questions, depending on the language. The first 40 minutes of these tests contains reading questions and the final 20 minutes are reserved for listening questions. These tests are currently offered in November only, and you must bring your own personal CD player to the test administration.

 

Although many students report that the added pressure of the listening portion can be stressful, the College Board reports that students actually tend to do better on that part of the test. It is recommended that you take the test as close as possible to the end of the most advanced language class that you plan to take. Students who take a break between language classes and the test do not tend to perform as well.

 

If you are choosing between a Language with Listening test and a Language test without the listening component, you should keep in mind that many colleges indicate that the Language with Listening tests give them a fuller picture of your ability and may be more useful for placement purposes.

 

Languages available: Korean with Listening, Chinese with Listening, Spanish with Listening, French with Listening, German with Listening, and Japanese with Listening.

 

You should take this test if: You have had significant exposure to the spoken language or have performed well in foreign language courses, or if your college requires this test for foreign language placement.

 

Foreign Languages without Listening component:

Six languages are available as Language SAT Subject Tests without listening components, and while some languages are available as tests with or without listening, others are unique offerings. These tests contain between 70-85 multiple-choice questions, depending on the language.

 

Be sure to check the SAT Subject Test Calendar for specific administration dates since not all of these tests are available on every date. As on the tests with listening components, it is recommended that you take the test as close as possible to the end of the most advanced language class that you plan to take, especially if you’re taking the test for college placement purposes. These tests can sometimes fulfill basic language competency requirements or place you out of introductory-level courses in college.

 

Languages available: Italian, Spanish, French, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin.

 

You should take this test if: You have at least two years of strong preparation in the language, or have had significant exposure to the spoken language. You should also take the test if it fulfills basic language competency requirements or places you out of introductory-level courses at your intended college.

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SCIENCE

There are three science SAT Subject Test offerings, and the Biology SAT Subject Test has two subtopics available.

 

Physics:

The Physics test has 75 multiple-choice questions and assesses your understanding of concepts from one year of introductory physics at the college-prep level, as well as the reasoning and problem-solving skills commonly derived from lab experiences. Some problem solving on the test requires simple numerical calculations, but calculators are not permitted.

 

You should take this test if: You’re thinking about pursuing a math- or science-based program of study (such as science, technology, engineering, or math) and have excelled in and enjoyed high school physics.

 

Chemistry:

The Chemistry test has 85 multiple-choice questions and assesses your understanding of the major concepts of chemistry along with your ability to apply these principles to solve specific problems. Some numerical calculations are required, but calculators are not permitted. A periodic table of the elements is also provided on the test.

 

You should take this test if: You’re interested in studying science or engineering in college and have excelled in and enjoyed high school chemistry. Also take this test if you are considering a premed track.

 

Biology (Ecological or Molecular):

The Biology test contains 80 multiple-choice questions. The first 60 questions are the same on every test, but after those you must choose between the ecological or molecular specialty. The remaining 20 questions relate specifically to either ecological or molecular biology. You cannot take both tests on the same test date, but you can take them on two different test dates.

 

You should take Biology – Ecological if: You’re interested in pursuing a science-based program of study and feel more comfortable answering questions about biological communities, populations, and energy flow. You should also take this test if you are considering a premed track.

 

You should take Biology – Molecular if: You’re interested in pursuing a science-based program of study and feel more comfortable answering questions about biochemistry, cellular structure and processes, such as respiration and photosynthesis. You should also take this test if you are considering a premed track.

 

HISTORY

There are two history tests to choose from for SAT Subject Tests.

 

U.S. History:

The U.S. History test contains 90 multiple-choice questions and assesses your knowledge of U.S. History from pre-Columbian times to the present. It also measures your skills pertaining to the study and analysis of historical events.

 

You should take this test if: You perform well in upper-level history classes and have a particular interest in U.S. history. You should also take this test if you plan to pursue an academic track in the humanities or liberal arts.

 

World History:

The World History test contains 95 multiple-choice questions. It covers all historical themes (political and diplomatic, intellectual and cultural, social and economic) from ancient times to the present. It also covers common methods of studying and analyzing history.

 

You should take this test if: You perform well in upper-level history classes with a particular focus on world history. Like the U.S. History test, you should take this test if you plan to pursue an academic track in the humanities or liberal arts.

 

With 20 tests to choose from, SAT Subject Tests should provide an option for everyone. Whether you excel at a certain class offering through your high school, participate in summer programs to pursue your individual interests, or speak another language at home, there are SAT Subject Tests available to highlight all of these unique skills.

   

If you still have questions about SAT Subject Tests or you are interested in our full-service, customized SAT Subject Test tutoring, head over to CollegeVine’s Academic Tutoring Program, where the brightest and most qualified tutors who are intimately familiar with the exam can help you ace it too, just like they did.

 

To learn more about the SAT or SAT Subject Tests, check out these CollegeVine posts:

 

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Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist