What are your chances of acceptance?

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 as a Prospective Pre-med?

Applying to college as a pre-med student is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. After all, you’re competing with other future doctors, many of whom boast impressive standardized test scores, solid GPAs, high class rankings, and a slew of extracurricular activities.


While most colleges don’t have a pre-med major or program, most will have a special advisor or pre-health professions committee. To be “pre-med” simply means to want to become a doctor and to take the required courses for med school admissions. If you express an interest in going into healthcare on your application, colleges will want to see evidence of your aptitude in the sciences. One way to demonstrate that is to take SAT II exams in math and science.


What Are SAT IIs?


Most people are familiar with the traditional SAT exam, which assesses a student’s aptitude for math and reading/writing. But what about the SAT IIs?


Also known as SAT Subject Tests, the SAT IIs are designed to test students’ knowledge of specific subjects. In this way, students can demonstrate their passion and talent for they topics might study at the college level. Currently, the College Board offers 20 SAT Subject Tests in the fields of English, history, foreign languages, math, and science. Along with more popular exams, such as U.S. History, English Literature, and Math, students can opt for less common subjects like Modern Hebrew and Korean.


Each of the Subject Tests lasts for one hour and features multiple-choice questions. Scores range from 200 to 800. While students can take up to three SAT IIs in the same day, they aren’t permitted to sit for both the SAT and a Subject Test in a single session.


What SAT IIs Should You Take If You Want to Follow the Pre-med Track?


Pre-med classes are notoriously challenging, and admissions committees want to ensure that applicants have the talent and knowledge required to undertake the rigorous coursework. To that end, many selective colleges with pre-med advising require applicants to take two to three SAT IIs to showcase their skills. If applicants opt to take an SAT II more than once, colleges will generally consider the highest score in evaluating performance.


Here are some tips for determining what Subject Tests to take if you want to boost your applicant profile:


1. Focus on the College’s Requirements


Because both pre-med and medical school curricula feature a significant number of math and science courses, students should take a math SAT II and at least one science SAT II. However, different colleges have unique testing requirements. To give yourself the best chance of being accepted, take care to review the requirements and recommendations of your dream school.


Cal Tech is one of the schools that requires two subject tests from all applicants, regardless of prospective major: Math II and a science test of the student’s choosing. Similarly, the University of Miami requires one math and one science test, but stipulates that applicants must earn a minimum score of 600 on each to qualify for its honors programs. While Princeton doesn’t require students to take SAT IIs, the school does recommend submitting scores for at least two tests. Applicants wanting to pursue a B.S.E. are advised to take one math test and one in either Physics or Chemistry.


2. Choose a Biology Test


So, what should you do if your dream colleges don’t let you know what SAT IIs to take? If your goal is to become a doctor, consider registering for the Biology E or Biology M test to enhance your applicant profile. Doing this lets prospective schools know that you’re interested in the sciences and shows your aptitude for pre-med studies.


Each biology test features 80 multiple choice questions and lasts for one hour. For the Biology E test, students will demonstrate their knowledge of ecological topics, such as evolution, natural selection, and ecosystems. For the Biology M test, students will answer questions related to how life functions at the molecular level. Topics include biochemistry, cellular structure, and processes like photosynthesis. Students should choose whichever subject they feel more confident in to ensure the best possible score.


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3. Select a Math Test


Many colleges require applicants interested in STEM majors to complete either the Math I or Math II Subject Test. While both tests last one hour and contain 50 questions, the Math I covers more basic topics (geometry and algebra) than the Math II (precalculus and trigonometry).


Although students often (rightly) assume that the Math I test is easier, that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Because the curve is steeper on the the Math 1, students who opt to take the Math II may wind up with higher scores. As an example, getting one question wrong on the Math 1 can prevent you from scoring a perfect 800. On the other hand, you can miss seven questions on the Math 2 and still earn a perfect score.


4. Incorporate Some Humanities


If your dream college doesn’t specify which SAT IIs to take, consider making your third choice a humanities exam. Showing off your knowledge of literature or history is a great way to distinguish yourself from other science applicants and demonstrate how well rounded you are. Not as strong in the humanities? Consider taking the Physics SAT II. Because most pre-med students opt to take the Chemistry test, applicants with a talent for physics may be able to stand out from the pack.


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

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Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.