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SAT Subject Tests 101: Everything You Need to Know

What Are the SAT Subject Tests?

Everyone is familiar with the SAT, the general college admissions exam that consists of an English and math section (as well as an optional essay).

However, the College Board also offers SAT Subject Tests in core areas like math, science, English, history, and foreign language. These exams are a great way for you to boost your college application by showcasing your strengths in specific areas of study.

While most universities don’t mandate SAT Subject Tests, many selective colleges actually do require or recommend up to three of them. Be sure to check the testing policies of the schools to which you’re applying.

Top Colleges That Require or Recommend SAT Subject Tests

SCHOOLRECOMMENDED OR REQUIREDSUBJECT
Brown UniversityRecommendedAny 2
California Institute of TechnologyRequiredMath II + 1 science
Carnegie Mellon UniversityRecommendedBased on program
Georgetown UniversityStrongly RecommendedAny 3
Harvard UniversityRecommendedAny 2
Harvey Mudd CollegeRequiredMath II + any 1
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyRequiredMath I or II + 1 science
Princeton UniversityRecommendedAny 2
University of PennsylvaniaRecommendedBased on program
Yale UniversityRecommendedAny 1

Which SAT Subject Tests Should I Take?

Most students take between 1 and 4 SAT Subject Tests. Choosing the right combination of tests depends on your strengths and interests.

For example, a prospective engineering or applied science major can take Math 2 and Physics to demonstrate their ability in problem-solving and quantitative reasoning. Students considering a pre-law track can take U.S. History and Literature to demonstrate knowledge in the social sciences and proficient language skills. And of course, those who intend to pursue history and cultural studies can boost their profile by scoring well on history, literature, and foreign language exams. 

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Exams and Scoring

In total, there are about 20 different SAT Subject Tests, which span across 5 academic disciplines.

SUBJECTTEST OFFERED
MathematicsMath Level I
Math Level II
ScienceBiology E (Ecological)
Biology M (Molecular)
Chemistry
Physics
EnglishLiterature
HistoryU.S. History
World History
LanguagesSpanish
Spanish with Listening
French
French with Listening
Chinese with Listening
Italian
German
German with Listening
Modern Hebrew
Latin
Japanese with Listening
Korean with Listening

About the Exam

  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Number of Questions: 50-95 (varies by subject)
  • Question Type: Multiple-Choice (A. – E.)
  • Scoring: 200 – 800

Each test has a unique grading system by which a raw score is converted to a scaled score out of 800. You typically do not need to answer every question correctly to achieve a perfect score of 800.

SAT Subject Scoring Example

Let’s look at the SAT Physics, for example. There are 75 total questions and your raw score is computed as follows: # of correct answers – (¼)(# of incorrect answers).

So if your answered 55 questions correctly, 15 incorrectly, and left 5 blank, your raw score would be 55-15(¼)=51.25. This raw score would be rounded to the nearest whole number, then converted to a score out of 800 based on a grading scale that varies for each test. So a 51.25 would round to 51, which generally corresponds to a score of around 750-780.

For reference, the average score for most SAT Subject Tests is between 600-700. Selective colleges typically look for scores over 750. You can retake the test as many times as necessary and don’t need to send all scores. Keep in mind that a low score shouldn’t prevent you from applying to your dream school, and likewise, a perfect score won’t guarantee admission. 

Upcoming Test Dates

TEST DATETESTS AVAILABLEREGISTRATION DEADLINE
December 7, 2019Literature
U.S. History
World History
Math Level I
Math Level II
Biology E
Biology M
Chemistry
November 8, 2019
May 2, 2020Literature
U.S. History
Math Level I
Math Level II
Biology E
Biology M
Chemistry
Physics
French
Spanish
April 3, 2020
June 6, 2020Literature
U.S. History
World History
Math Level I
Math Level II
Biology E
Biology M
Chemistry
Physics
French
German
Spanish
Modern Hebrew
Italian
Latin
May 8, 2020

Registration, Cost, and Test Policies

All SAT Subject Tests are self-registered through your College Board account.

For each test date, there is a $26 registration fee plus an additional $22 per test (Language Tests with Listening cost $26). You may take up to 3 SAT Subject Tests per test date and you have the option of switching your choice of exams on test day. However, refunds are not offered for tests you decide not to take, and you will be billed for the tests you add.

You can retake SAT Subject Tests as many times as you want.

However, do note that some colleges require you to submit ALL test scores. If you decide to cancel your score for one test, your scores for all other tests taken on that day will also be cancelled.

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Your Test, Your Choice

If you’re passionate about a particular area of study or simply want to enhance your college application, then the SAT Subject Tests are for you!

With so many options, however, there isn’t one specific set of exams considered superior to the rest. After all, everyone is different, so make sure to choose the right combination of tests that suits your personal strengths, interests, and college requirements. 

Good luck!

What’s Next?

Don’t go at it alone! Save time and energy with the guidance of our Spring SAT Subject Prep courses, which begin in January 2020. 

If you sign up now, you can save with our 10% Spring Early Bird offer on any course package of 20 sessions — your choice of SAT Math II, SAT Biology, SAT Chemistry, SAT Literature and/or SAT U.S. History.

Contact us to speak with an expert counselor (for free!) about your test prep plan.

Offer ends Jan. 10. Hurry! Seats fill up fast!

MEK Review

MEK Review is the top learning center in North Jersey, dedicated to helping students of all ages begin an incredible success story. With our guidance, students have gained acceptances into the best schools in the country, earned top test scores, prepared for difficult admission tests, and transformed into their best selves in the classroom.To find your perfect solution, explore our programs or book your free consultation with an expert counselor!

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