How Many SAT IIs Should You Take?

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Though it’s one of the least-understood standardized tests in the college admissions process, the SAT Subject Test is an important part of your application. It offers the most flexibility of all standardized college admissions exams, since you can choose Subject Tests that showcase your strengths.

 

How many SAT Subject Tests should you take and which ones should you choose? Read on to find out.

What is the SAT Subject Test?

The SAT Subject Test, formerly and colloquially called the SAT II, evaluates your knowledge of a specific subject. Unlike the SAT, which assesses your general academic skills and college readiness, Subject Tests allow you to demonstrate your mastery of a particular topic and show the depth of the knowledge you’ve gained in high school. For example, the Chemistry test will assess your understanding of key scientific principles and concepts, likely including material you’ve studied in your chemistry courses.

 

Unlike the SAT, which is usually required for all applicants, the Subject Tests you take are generally up to you. While colleges and programs may have certain requirements, students usually are able to submit scores from tests in their strongest subjects, which often correlate to their anticipated major. A future history major, for instance, could submit scores from U.S. History, World History, or both.

 

The College Board offers 20 SAT Subject Tests across five subject areas: Mathematics, Science, English, History, and Languages.

 

How many SAT Subject Tests should you take?

According to CollegeVine’s data, the vast majority of colleges and universities will consider a maximum of three SAT Subject Tests per student in the admissions process. However, that doesn’t mean you should only take three exams.

 

The College Board offers score choice for Subject Tests, which means that you can choose which scores to send to colleges. If you don’t perform as well as you would have liked on certain tests, you can take a different exam and report that score instead. However, note that  the College Board offers Subject Tests less frequently than the SAT, you may face scheduling challenges if you try to take a given test more than once. (Check out this calendar for information on test dates.) We advise taking as many exams as you need to achieve satisfactory scores on three tests.

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So what’s a satisfactory score? Your target Subject Test scores will depend on the schools you’re applying to and your academic profile. However, if you’ve achieved at least a 770 on three Subject Tests, you probably don’t need to take any more. A score over 770 demonstrates a high command of the subject matter, and the 30 points you’ve left on the table will not substantially change how your application is viewed — even if you’re applying to highly selective institutions.

 

There’s one more reason that you might need to take more than three subject tests. Because some colleges and specialized programs require specific Subject Tests, you may find that the requirements for the colleges and the specialized programs on your list don’t always overlap. In this case, you would need to take more than three tests in order to meet the requirements of both your schools and programs of interest. For example, if one program requires two sciences and a math exam, while another requires a science, math, and humanities Subject Test, then you’ll have to take at least four Subject Tests.

 

How do you know which Subject Tests to take?

You should determine which Subject Tests to take based on your strengths and anticipated career path and major. You should also ensure that you meet any program guidelines. Some specialized programs may suggest or require applicants to take specific Subject Tests, or Subject Tests from certain categories.  

 

For example, a future business major might want to take Math II, as well as a science and a humanities test, to demonstrate competencies in multiple areas related to business. To learn more, check out our guides for which Subject Tests to take for specific disciplines.

 

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.