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SAT Subject Tests: Who Should Take Them?

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SAT subject tests are an increasingly important part of the college admissions process. The general SAT reasoning test does a fairly good job of testing a student’s abilities in the areas of critical reading, writing, and basic mathematics, but many colleges want further assurance that a student will be able to excel in a particular subject area. This is particularly important if you are interested in pursuing a major in a specific field, such as a foreign language, a natural science, or are interested in applying to top schools that have very stringent entry requirements. The SAT subject tests are one hour long, and content based, meaning that they test one’s knowledge of material from a specific high school subject. Here are some of the important facts you need to know in order to decide whether to take one or more subject tests, and if so, which ones to take.

When you Should Take Subject Tests

Many top colleges now require that students take one or more subject tests, and often specify which ones are necessary for admission. For example, Harvard requires two SAT subject tests, MIT requires at least two, and most other Ivy League colleges require at least one. Even if you are not applying to an Ivy League college, a strong SAT subject test can often provide a boost to your college application. This is particularly true if you are not taking AP courses, since colleges like to be able to objectively measure student ability. Someone in New York who receives an A in high school chemistry, for example, is hard to compare to a student in California who also receives an A, due to differences in state curricula. Even schools in the same area can have significantly different marking, making an SAT subject test a great way to demonstrate objectively strong skills in a particular area.

Which Subject Tests Should you Take?

Generally, when applying to a specific major, it makes sense to complete the subject test most closely related to that major. For example, when applying to college for physics, it would make sense to take both the physics subject test and one of the mathematics subject tests. This provides evidence that you are capable of performing well in your intended major. It is also a good idea to demonstrate some breadth in your academic abilities, since most colleges prefer students to be somewhat well rounded. A good third subject test to take would likely be something like literature, history, or a foreign language, in order to demonstrate proficiency in a wide variety of disciplines. This also allows you to distinguish yourself from other candidates, many of whom will have only taken one or two tests related directly to their major.

In essence, SAT subject tests are another way to stand out among your peers as an excellent candidate for a college program, by providing an objective measure of your abilities in a particular area. This makes them a great way to strengthen a college application.

This article was written for you by Tobias, one of the tutors with Test Prep Academy.

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