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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What SAT IIs Should You Take if You Plan to Pursue the Humanities?

Narrowing down a college major can be a difficult process, especially if you only base the decision on your high school course experience. However, if you take some time to reflect on your interests and the subjects in which you excel, you should at least be able to narrow your choices down to one type of study: STEM, social sciences, or humanities.


STEM fields encompass all math, science, engineering, and technology majors. If you naturally gravitate towards those subjects, STEM might be right for you. Social sciences are majors like business, economics, and other fields that are more theoretical but still have a math and science component to them. Finally, humanities majors are those like English, film, history, and any cultural major. These subjects are largely theoretical, heavily reading-based, and largely have no technical or math-heavy component to them.


If you decide that you plan to pursue a humanities major, you may be surprised to see that many colleges require you to complete SAT Subject Tests as part of your application. Now, when you’re pursuing a STEM or social sciences major, it’s usually fairly obvious which tests relate most to your major. With humanities majors, on the other hand, it’s a little bit murkier. Thankfully, we at CollegeVine know what colleges want prospective humanities majors to demonstrate on their SAT Subject Tests. To learn which SAT IIs you should take if you plan to pursue any humanities major in college, keep reading.


Always Check College Testing Requirements First


Once you’ve narrowed down your college list, you need to do some online research to determine whether there are specific SAT Subject Tests that each college requires for prospective humanities majors. For instance, if a college tells you that you need to take Math Level II and U.S. History, that supersedes any advice we are about to give below.


Now, colleges usually won’t tell you specifically which two or three exams to take. They may specify one exam that you must take, or tell you to choose from a list of subjects. At that point, you are free to choose whichever exam on the list you are most likely to do well in.


Recently, colleges have been switching from requiring that you take certain SAT II tests to recommending that you take certain tests. This basically means that your application will not be considered incomplete if you don’t take SAT II tests. We at CollegeVine strongly suggest that you take the recommended SAT II tests anyways, if you are willing and able.


If you’re worried that every college you apply to is going to require a different test and you’re going to be stuck taking 8 different exams, don’t be. As you do your college research, you’ll find that, for the most part, colleges will usually require or recommend the same SAT Subject Tests. You probably won’t have to take more than 3 exams to satisfy each college’s requirements, and remember, you can complete up to 3 SAT Subject Tests in one exam sitting.


What Should Future Humanities Majors Show with their SAT Subject Tests?


Why bother taking SAT Subject Tests as a future humanities major? Well, the ultimate goal is for you to demonstrate expertise in a humanities topic. After all, if you can master one humanities subject, you likely have the skills necessary to master similar humanities subjects.


However, there has been a recent trend in the humanities towards data-driven analytical thinking. The idea here is that humanities majors have been using data sets and regression techniques that are used in the social sciences to make conclusions in their field. Thus, humanities majors increasingly need to show mastery in basic math concepts as well, as these will be important in their future data analysis work.


Finally, if you are planning on studying a cultural major like Spanish or South Asian Studies, you should use your SAT Subject Tests to demonstrate mastery in a language. Thus, at least one of your SAT Subject Tests should be a language exam, even if it’s not the language that is common to the culture you plan on studying in college, though that is ideal. Showing proficiency in any foreign language shows that you have exercised your linguistic skills and are likely able to pick up another language without too much of a struggle.


Therefore, the goals of your SAT Subject Tests are to show mastery in the humanities, math, and potentially language subjects. With this in mind, we at CollegeVine recommend taking two or three SAT Subject Tests if you plan on pursuing a humanities major. Which should you take? We’re going to break that down below.

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Which Specific SAT IIs Should Prospective Humanities Majors Take?


The three Humanities-related SAT Subject Tests are the following:


  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • English Literature


The two Math-related SAT Subject Tests are as follows:


  • Math Level I
  • Math Level II


The Math Level II exam covers more advanced math topics up to pre-calculus, and this is the exam that is more widely accepted, especially among the higher-ranked schools and the Ivy League.


Lastly, there are SAT Subject Tests available for the following languages:


  • French (with listening)
  • German (with listening)
  • Spanish (with listening)
  • Chinese (with listening)
  • Japanese (with listening)
  • Korean (with listening)
  • Hebrew (without listening)
  • Italian (without listening)
  • Latin (without listening)


If you are planning to pursue a traditional humanities major like English or History, we at CollegeVine recommend you take either two humanities-related exams and one Math exam or three humanities-related exams. Which exam you take within those categories is entirely up to you. Choose whichever ones you think you will do the best in.


Students who are planning to pursue a cultural or language-related major should take World History, a language exam, and either math or U.S. History/Literature. Ideally, you should take a language exam that corresponds to the region that you plan to study. However, if there is no SAT Subject Test offered in that language, or if you don’t know that language by the end of your junior year, any language test will do. Note that some languages are not offered on every testing date, so be sure to plan well in advance.


Many of the students who take language-related SAT Subject Tests are either native speakers or have completed the AP-level course in the language, so the curve on those exams are very difficult. Therefore, if you don’t fit into either of those categories for a certain language, it’s best to avoid the corresponding SAT II.


Final Thoughts


The humanities is a broad category of subjects that range from East Asian Studies to Sociology and Anthropology. If you can narrow down your decision from simply the humanities to a specific major, you might have an easier time deciding which SAT Subject Tests you need to take.


Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!