Here we are, nearly two decades into the 21st century, and we hardly seem to be living in our best possible future. For one, we still aren’t zipping around in flying cars. Two, Roombas are not nearly as sassy or functional as the Jetson’s robot housekeeper, Rosie. Last but not least, SAT Subjects are still a thing.
What have we done to deserve the uncertainty the exams formerly known as SAT IIs and, before that, Achievement Tests bring to the college admissions process? Which tests to take and when to take them are reasonable questions worth considering. Wondering whether these tests are even worth taking, however, becomes harder and harder to answer every year. What should every high schooler know about taking SAT Subject Tests in 2019?
WHICH SAT SUBJECT TESTS TO TAKE
College Board currently offers 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science. Generally speaking, students should take Subject Tests in those subjects they excel at. Most students take one of the two Math Subject Tests and at least one other test, typically in a subject that reflects a student’s prospective field of student. Consider all the factors that make particular Subject Tests influential.
WHEN TO TAKE SAT SUBJECT TESTS
Students should strive to take these tests when they have attained peak knowledge in the subjects tested. Typically, students are most prepared before APs in mid-May or Finals in late May or June. This makes the May and June SAT test dates the natural choices for Subject Tests. Just keep in mind that students cannot sit for both the standard SAT and SAT Subject Tests in the same day, though they can take up to three Subject Tests per sitting. Also be advised that not every Subject Test is available on every given date. For example, the World History Subject Test is not offered in May, which is rather inconvenient for AP World History students hoping to target both tests in the same month.
WHETHER TO TAKE SAT SUBJECT TESTS AT ALL
While just about every college requires or at least appreciates SAT and ACT scores, SAT Subject Tests are entirely a matter of taste. Many schools profess a complete disinterest in Subject Test scores, while other either require or strongly recommend them from applicants. College Board maintains a database of Institutions Using SAT Subject Tests, though there seems to be little rhyme or reason behind the schools on the list. Certain students are more likely to need Subject Tests than others, so consider whether these factors apply to you. Also keep in mind that Subject Tests can be worth even more than usual in test-flexible admissions.
Ultimately, students have nothing to lose (besides a precious weekend morning and various test fees) by sitting for SAT Subject Tests. Bad scores can be suppressed, while good ones definitely add helpful quantitative support to a college application. In this environment of uncertainty, the smart play is to make an educated choice about which Subject Tests to take and when based on what we know today. With hope, the future will bring greater clarity about the necessity of these tests.