When Should You Take SAT II Subject Exams?

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SAT Subject Tests, also known as SAT II’s, are the lesser-known standardized tests of the College Application process, mostly because not all colleges require you to take them. These tests are designed to test your mastery in certain subjects, and colleges use them as one determinant of how well you know certain material that is going to be important for the major you plan on pursuing at the university.

 

For instance, if you are applying to college as a STEM major, you may have to take a math and a science-related SAT Subject Test. If you’re applying to college for a major in a specific language, you may have to take the SAT Subject Test in that specific language. The lists go on.

 

If you know that you’re going to need to take SAT Subject Tests in order to apply to college, you may be wondering when you should take them. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to plan your SAT II test such that you achieve as high a score as possible.

 

A Quick Review: What Are SAT Subject Tests?

 

SAT Subject Tests are one-hour, usually multiple-choice, subject-specific exams that are administered by the College Board, the same organization that administers the SAT. You register for and take an SAT Subject Test much as you do an SAT test, with the online registration, the test center, proctor, and everything else. The difference is that, as the test is only an hour long, you have the option to take up to 3 different subject tests in one test sitting.

 

Not all colleges require their applicants to submit SAT Subject Test scores, but some, especially the more prestigious ones, strongly recommend it. Depending on what major you are applying for, the colleges will tell you what tests they recommend you take.

 

After you take an SAT Subject Test, you will receive a score from 0 to 800, with 800 being a perfect score. This is the score that you will send to colleges along with your application. Obviously, the higher your score is, the more a college will believe you have mastered the material that was tested.

 

If you’re interested in a more comprehensive overview of what SAT Subject Tests are, check out What Are SAT Subject Tests?

 

You can take SAT Subject Tests at any point in your high school career if you feel comfortable with the material. The next section delves into what points throughout high school are the best times to take these tests.

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When Should You Take SAT Subject Tests?

 

Many of the subjects that SAT II tests correspond with courses that you’ll likely be required to take during high school anyway. For example, the World History SAT Subject Test tests the same material as the AP World History test, though in a different format and at a varying level of difficulty.

 

(To see all of the SAT II Subject Tests that are offered, see our Complete List of SAT Subject Tests.)

 

Therefore, the best time to take an SAT Subject Test is after you have completed the course and/or the corresponding AP Exam for that specific subject. In other words, you ought to take an SAT Subject Test in May or June after you’ve taken a course in that subject, preferably an AP course.

 

At this point, the material will still be fresh in your brain, so you won’t have to go back and do a lot of concept review and extra studying to prepare for the exam. This is not to say that you will not have to study at all, of course, but it will certainly be easier to do so because you will have just learned the material.

 

If you have just taken an AP test in a certain course, you should consider taking the corresponding SAT Subject Test. AP exams are known for testing well-beyond the material that is needed to do well on the SAT Subject Tests, so you might find that the SAT Subject Test is a bit easier than the matching AP exam.

 

Of course, even if you’ve just taken the AP exam, you’ll need to do a bit of test preparation, if nothing else, in order to adjust to the new testing format. However, as a general rule, a student who scores a 5 on an AP exam is likely to score a 750+ on the SAT II test in the same subject.

 

So, as you go through high school, see which AP classes you feel the most comfortable in. If there’s a corresponding SAT Subject Test available, go ahead and sign up to take it in May or June. You’d be surprised at how convenient it is to get a high score with this strategy.

 

What Else Do You Need To Know About SAT Subject Tests?

 

In general, it’s important to note that SAT II’s are NOT the same as the SAT. Whereas SAT Prep revolves around mastering the test and the types of questions you might be asked, SAT Subject Tests test your knowledge of certain subject-matter concepts. Thus, your SAT Subject Test Prep should be more focused on memorization of facts and practice questions than it should be on learning the test.

 

Furthermore, keep in mind that SAT II exams are a supplementary part of your college application. So try to do your best on these exams, but remember that there’s no pressure!

 

Finally, once you’ve received your SAT II score, remember to send it into colleges by the required deadline. You send them in the same way that you send in your SAT test scores, and there may be a fee associated with this. Make sure you know how to send in your scores sooner rather than later so that you are not stuck with an incomplete application close to the application due date.

 

Want to know more about SAT Subject Tests? These CollegeVine blog posts should help:

 

How Are SAT Subject Tests Scored?

What To Do After Receiving SAT Subject Test Scores

5 Strategies For Tackling SAT Subject Tests

Choosing the Right SAT II’s For You

 

You should now have a better idea of when to take your SAT Subject Tests. However, that doesn’t mean that you should forget about the all-important standardized test: The SAT!

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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!