What SAT IIs Should You Take if You Plan to Pursue Pre-law, Pol Sci, or International Relations?

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If you are interested in world affairs, politics, and law, a major in either pre-law, political science or international relations might be a good fit for you. These majors all deal with the interactions of the world’s governments, how politics influences real-world outcomes, and governance and policymaking processes. Some students in these majors go into politics and world governance, working for organizations like the UN or the World Bank; others continue on to law school or pursue graduate degrees.

 

These three majors are all in the social sciences, which means that they are largely theoretical and reading-based; however, these subjects do also include math- and statistics-based subfields and methodology. That means that you’ll need a wide array of skills to pursue this major at a selective college. One way to demonstrate these skills is to take SAT Subject Tests, also known as SAT IIs. Which SAT IIs should you take if you want to pursue pre-law, political science or international relations? Read on to find out.

 

Prioritize College- and Major-level Requirements

Sometimes, a school that you’re applying to—especially if it’s a top-ranked institution—will require you to take and submit specific SAT Subject Tests. These requirements can apply to all applicants, or can be specific to your major of interest. For example, a college might require all of its applicants to pre-law, political science or international relations majors to take Math Level II and US History. Alternatively, they may require that you choose two or three tests from a selected list of SAT Subject Tests.

 

If a school on your list has college- or major-level requirements, satisfying these requirements should be your top priority. You must take the exams they specify unless you want your application to be considered incomplete. Any college- or major-level requirements supersede other considerations when choosing what SAT IIs to take.

 

A further complication is that some colleges have shifted from requiring certain SAT Subject Tests  to only recommending them. If a college simply recommends certain SAT Subject Test, you can still submit an application without it and be considered for admission. However, it is still in your best interests to take the recommended SAT II tests, unless you believe that you will perform poorly on those exams.

 

As noted above, some colleges do offer guidelines for the categories of tests you should take, while others require specific exams for specific program applicants. However, most colleges won’t specify exactly which exams you should take. This means that you’ll likely have some freedom to choose the exams that best showcase your abilities.

 

Because each school has slightly different requirements, you might worry that meeting each school’s recommendations and requirements will force you to take a bunch of different SAT Subject Tests. However, that is rarely the case. You’ll find substantial overlap between different school’s SAT Subject Test requirements for similar majors. By carefully researching the requirements of each school on your list, you’ll likely find that it won’t take more than three exams to satisfy your various schools’ SAT Subject Test requirements.

 

What Are The Goals of SAT Subject Tests For Future Pre-Law, Poli Sci, or International Relations Majors?

SAT Subject Tests showcase your skills and mastery of specific subject areas. Your Subject Tests are an opportunity to demonstrate your preparation for your major or field of choice. So what skills and strengths should a prospective pre-law, political science, or international relations major show?

 

Show writing abilities. Much of your work as a pre-law, poli sci, or international relations major will involve absorbing ideas and facts from texts—and communicating your own understanding and theories through written work. Admissions officers will pay particular attention to writing and reading abilities of prospective social science majors.

 

Show textual comprehension skills. You also need to show that you can quickly comprehend, pull facts from, and draw conclusions from dense, lengthy texts. These skills will be essential for everything from day-to-day course readings to term papers to research and case studies that you might read or conduct.

 

Show math and data proficiency. Though reading and writing will form the foundation of your work as a pre-law, poli sci, or international relations major, these majors (and all of the social sciences!) increasingly rely on data analysis and statistics. This means that the strongest applicants to these majors will demonstrate a firm grasp of basic math and data analysis.

 

Show language and cultural skills. Prospective international relations majors can boost their applications by demonstrating language and cultural skills. International relations majors can go on to varied careers, from policymaking to academia to diplomacy. In all these settings–and during your undergraduate studies–an ability to engage with other cultures (and ideally understand other languages!) will serve you well.

 

With these goals in mind, let’s take a look at which SAT Subject Tests you should consider.

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Which Specific Exams Should You Take?

The LIterature Subject Test. To show reading, analytical thinking, and writing skills, we recommend that you take the Literature Subject Test. While you don’t need to have read any specific texts in order to take this exam, the exam will ask you to read and interpret complex English and British literature from a variety of historical periods. Though you likely won’t read much literature as a pre-law, poli sci, or international relations major, acing this exam will show your ability to engage with complex texts and language.

 

A History Subject Test. Next, you should take one history exam. The history Subject Tests require you to master historical facts, demonstrating your ability to absorb and process information from complex sources. For students interested in law or political science, we recommend the US history exam. You’ll likely need to know US history to pursue a policy-related major in the United States, so this test will show off your foundational knowledge of that history.

 

A Math Subject Test. Finally, to demonstrate your quantitative abilities, you should take either the Math Level I or Math Level II exam. The Math Level II exam offers a greater challenge because it tests mathematics concepts all the way up to pre-calculus. If you’re applying to top ranked schools, we recommend that you take Math Level II.

 

Generally speaking, this selection of tests will serve you well if you are interested in policy or politics-related majors. However, if you’re specifically interested in international relations, international law, world history, or related fields, then our recommendations shift a little bit. Internationally-minded applicants should take:

 

  • The World History Subject Test
  • A language exam (choose your strongest language!)*
  • Your third exam could be either a math exam, the US History exam, or the Literature exam–whichever will yield your best performance

 

*There is one important caveat to this advice! We recommend avoiding the SAT Language subject tests unless you are a native speaker or if you have taken an AP-level course in the language. Many of the students who take the language Subject Tests are native speakers, so the curves for these exams are often extremely difficult. This means that, in order to shine, you need to be truly confident in your language abilities.

 

For More Information

If you’re interested in pursuing pre-law, political science, or international relations, you can demonstrate your interest in the subject through other application components, too. Here are some helpful blog posts for future policymakers:

 

Summer Activities for the Hopeful Future Lawyer

A Guide to Being Politically Engaged in High School

The List of All U.S. Colleges with a Political Science Major

How to Spend Your Summer as a Prospective Poli Sci Major

 

If you’re still unsure about which SAT Subject Tests you should take, consider joining CollegeVine’s Early Advising Program. This personalized, one-on-one Mentorship program, designed specifically for 9th and 10th-grade students, helps applicants build an outstanding high school academic and extracurricular profile. Through this program, we’ll pair you with a mentor who attended a highly ranked college and has similar interests. This mentor will work individually with you to ensure that you’re doing all you can to prepare for college, from choosing the right SAT Subject Tests to selecting the optimal high school courses and extracurriculars.

Of course, we can’t mention SAT II exams without talking about the general SAT test! CollegeVine’s one-on-one, online SAT Tutoring Program has helped over one thousand students increase their overall SAT scores by up to 260 points. By signing up for our program, you’ll get personalized guidance, and our SAT experts will help you target and improve your SAT weaknesses. With our help, you can build toward your goal score.

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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
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!