SAT Subject Tests: What are They and What are My Alternatives?

Although less and less common, some schools still ‘recommend,’ ‘welcome,’ or ‘encourage’ students to take the SAT Subject Tests for college admissions. At a number of selective schools, scores on the SAT Subject tests are mandatory requirements for admissions. And at other schools, students have the option to take other standardized tests like the ACT, IB or AP exams in lieu of the SAT Subject Tests. So what exactly are the SAT Subject Tests? Should students take them? And what are alternative options?

SAT Subject Tests Overview

SAT Subject Tests are hour-long tests that allow students to showcase their excellence in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science. SAT Subject Tests allow a student to differentiate her or himself in the college admission process and-or to show readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. Some colleges also use Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses. High scores on the Subject Tests may also allow a student to fulfill basic requirements or receive credit for introductory-level courses. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests which can be found here.


Should Students Take the SAT Subject Tests?

For students applying to selective schools, we highly recommend taking the Subject Tests after completing the year-long course in that particular subject. The reason is simple: the information is still fresh in students’ minds and schools can change requirements again next year. The best bet is to have them, in case a school requires them. Additionally, if a highly selective school, like Princeton or Yale, says it does not require Subject Tests, but they are recommended, do not be fooled. There are thousands and thousands of students sending their scores in. “Recommended,” “encouraged,” and “welcomed” are the new “required.” There is absolutely no downside to sending a school a high score on any of the SAT Subject Tests.


Alternatives to Taking the SAT Subject Tests

At some schools, students have the option to take the ACT in lieu of a combination of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. Other schools allow students to use IB or AP exam scores. For students who dislike standardized tests, these options are perfectly acceptable, and at the same time, help families save money by not having to pay the SAT Subject Test registration fees.


Colleges that Require, Recommend or Utilize SAT Subject Tests

For a list of colleges that require, recommend or utilize SAT Subject tests in admission or for placement/credit for the 2015-2016 school year, click here. In all cases, however, be certain to double-check with the school(s) to which you are applying to assure that information on SAT Subject testing is both accurate and up-to-date.


About International College Counselors

The expert educational consultants at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families from across the country and all over the world find, apply to, and gain admission to the college of their dreams. If you would like to learn how to successfully navigate the college admissions process, please contact our expert college advisors at [email protected] or call 954-414-9986.