If you are applying to certain colleges SAT subject tests are recommended, or indeed required. It can be an extra bonus to set you apart from other applicants.
If you have covered the fundamentals of your chosen subjects you won’t find the SAT subject tests hard. SAT Subject Tests are broken into 5 categories with sub categories. Each subject test is an hour.
No test is going to be easy. These tests are helping you to get get a college place. But maybe you have a particular interest that will help you get a good score in one of them. Here are some tips on the subject tests.
1. What is the SAT subject test?
2. How can Subject Tests help your college application?
3. What is required for your dream school
4. When should I take the tests?
5. Consider the cost
Your college application is a large project. There is much information to gather and preparation to be done. My advice is to start early and consider the following when thinking about the SAT subject test.
What is the SAT Subject test?
SAT, ACT, GPA, subject tests. There’s a lot to get your head around. SAT subject tests are separate from the main SAT. They are multiple choice exams that take one hour to sit. There are approximately 21 subjects to choose from and they are graded the same as the SAT from 200-800. There is an additional cost to sit the subject tests, both a registration fee ($26), and an individual cost per test ($22), and the language tests are a little more at ($26).
The group of tests center around five core areas. History, language, Math, English and Science. Each of these sections is broken into more specific subject titles.
History: US History and World History.
US history test is 90 questions long. World history is 95 questions.
You must have a strong interest in these subjects to do well, and hope to pursue this route in college.
Spanish, Spanish with listening, French, French with listening, Chinese with listening, Italian, German, German with listening, Japanese with listening, Korean with listening, Modern Hebrew and Latin.
Taking a language subject test has a couple of problems attached to it. If you are a native German speaker for example, the college admissions is going to expect you to ace it but unless you are applying to a course that requires it, they will be far from bowled over.
The subjects that have a listening element are only held on a specific day and require you to bring your own audio player.
Math is offered at two levels. Math 1 and Math 2.
You should only take Math 1 if you are considering technology or engineering. It does not include the coursework of Math 2 - precalculus or trigonometry.
Math 2 is for B grade and higher students. However, top schools may look upon a Math 1 test as a cop out so only sit this test as a last resort.
The English option is a literature test only. It contains approximately 60 mcq, split into 6-8 sections. Each section deals with text from different periods through history. You need to be scoring very well in your high school classes to do well in this subject test.
Tests offered include the three sciences; physics, chemistry and biology.
Biology is then split further into two. The physics test involves problem solving and math calculations. A calculator is not permitted during the test.
Chemistry has 85 mcq and tests your overall knowledge of introductory chemistry. Calculators are not permitted but you will have access to a periodic table.
Biology as I say is split between Ecological and Molecular. The first section (60 questions) are the same and then you must choose between either ecological or molecular for the final 20 questions. If you are considering premed as a future you should definitely be thinking about sitting Biology and or Chemistry.
How can Subject Tests help your college application
Taking extra classes is ‘most of the time’ a good idea. When I say most of the time, I mean unless it is making you look better then don’t take the test. As I say Math 1 is not going to impress anyone, unless it is a requirement. Half of the SAT is Math.
Again if you are German, taking the German test, you’re not showing any extra skill or hard work. Colleges are looking for people that stand out.
Consider taking subject tests that you have a future interest in. Tests that you are going to do well in because of that interest. If you and another student have the same GPA, similar SAT scores but your subject test has knocked it out of the park, well you are then the popular choice. If you are not yet sure what you are going to major in, well then showcase that you have all around ability and sit a science and a language.
What is required for your dream school?
Many schools have particular requirements or recommendations for college application. They say recommendations but this is really a requirement. Going back to the identical GPA and SAT scores for you and another student. They have taken the recommended subject test and you haven’t. Who has the upper hand? Exactly.
Subject tests are broken into four college categories.
If this is the case for your chosen college, it means that subject tests must be taken. Each school will have a preference for the subject you must take, for example Engineering schools generally require Math 2 and a Science, however some will accept ACT scores along with SAT instead of a Subject Test.
As I said it could be the difference between you and another candidate. It can be your chance to shine if your SAT wasn’t quit what you had hoped for and also will show that you went that bit extra when it came to academic achievement
This is not quite as definitive. Schools with this policy see subject tests as an added bonus to your application. It is a good idea if you have a real interest in a subject that shows in the rest of your application. If you submit these scores they will be considered but if they are not there it won’t be reviewed negatively.
Where a college has different policies in place such as test optional, this may be seen as alternative. This may be where SAT / ACT scores could be replaced with Subject Test scores. They may also have other policies in place such as portfolio work, or interviews.
When should I take the subject tests?
This will definitely determine how difficult you rate each subject. The subject test although quite broad in number are actually quite topic specific. Ideally the time to take your subject test is immediately after you have done the coursework. If you have completed your Physics after freshman year, then that’s when to sit your test. It’s fresh in your mind. Going through notes shouldn’t be a challenge. If you leave that test until sophomore then you will need refresher classes which is counterproductive if you know it inside out junior year.
It’s also important you have a plan in place. SAT’s and Subject Tests are held on the same day. Figure out when you are best suited to sitting each. If you are sitting a language with a listening, this is only available in November.
So, figure your dates and put them on a wall planner where you can see them. Don’t leave yourself short of dates. No one knows how days in the future pan out. You could be unwell, injured, who knows, so plan accordingly.
Consider the Cost of Subject Tests
Applying to college is going to require funding. From the get go the cost of sitting you tests is there. Both SAT and Subject tests have a cost.
When you register you get four scores for free to send to colleges. Most consider not sending these. The reason is that you are not able to see these four scores until after they are sent to the college.
In other words, if you have flunked the test then you can’t withdraw them.
However, some colleges request you submit all your scores. You should possibly send your four free ones to any college you are applying to that has this policy. Sending additional scores is $12. So by sending your four free it has saved you $48. Try not to have too many schools on your list or your costs will mount.
There are other costs to consider. Don’t be late. Late fee is $30. Rush orders, if you need your scores to a school in a hurry, is $31.
If it has been more than a year since you took a test, retrieving them from archive will set you back $31.
If you prefer that your test is hand scored instead of computer scored, this will cost an additional $55. If you order anything by phone this is $15, plus whatever you need.
Basically the whole application process is costly.
Most students sit the SAT more than once and adding subject tests on top of that, plus actually receiving your scores all adds up.
There is the possibility of a fee waiver but this must be applied for by a school counselor, so if you think you need financial help don’t leave it until the last minute.
The whole college application will test you as a student. Get as much help as you can from school, home, externally if needed. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Put your head down and get stuck in.
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Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort.
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