SAT II Subject Tests

Who in their right mind would choose to sign up for extra standardized tests? In the case of the SAT II Subject Tests, the answer is lots of students, for lots of different reasons.

What are the SAT II Subject Tests?

The SAT II Subject Tests are an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding in specific subjects. While AP tests measure college-level mastery, SAT II tests focus on high school-level material, making them an accessible way to showcase subject-matter strength. There are twenty different tests to choose from, broken into the five broad categories of English, mathematics, science, history, and languages. (You can see the full list of individual tests here.) Each test takes an hour to complete, is made up exclusively of multiple-choice questions, and is scored on a 200-800 point scale.

When are the SAT II Subject Tests Offered?

In general, SAT II’s are available six times a year, but it’s important to check the schedule carefully since not every test is available on every date. For example, the Language with Listening test is only offered on the November test dates. Although you can’t take an SAT II Subject Test on the same day you take the SAT, you can take up to three subject tests on the same day.

Unlike most standardized tests, the SAT II offers a unique degree of flexibility on test day. You can actually change which subject tests you wish to take once you arrive. With the exception of the Language with Listening tests (which require additional equipment), you can add, delete, or switch which tests to take from those being offered on any particular test date. Note, though, that you’ll be charged for any extra tests you choose to take.

Why Take an SAT II?

Many colleges require SAT II Subject Tests as part of their admissions process, but even when not strictly necessary including these extra scores can be an advantage. By focusing on subjects not explored in other standardized tests, the SAT II is a great opportunity to play to your strengths and demonstrate your interest and readiness in a particular field of study. Some colleges even award credit or waive other requirements based on SAT II performance. Subject matter tests can also help provide information that goes beyond your report card, such as demonstrating skills learned at special summer classes or programs and potentially helping to balance out a lower grade in a particular subject.

Groups That Should Especially Consider the SAT II Subject Tests

While almost everyone’s application can be strengthened by including solid SAT II scores, certain groups of students may especially benefit from taking the tests. For example, students who speak English as a second language may be able to use subject tests that rely less on language (such as mathematics or science) to more clearly show their capabilities. Students who have been homeschooled may also find advantages in taking SAT II’s to help demonstrate their college readiness and provide a standardized comparison of their qualifications in different subjects. Finally, students who speak multiple languages or are looking to attend international schools should especially consider SAT II tests in foreign languages to demonstrate how their abilities rate compared to other students from around the world.

While spending an extra Saturday sitting for a standardized exam might not be anyone’s idea of fun, the SAT II Subject Tests are a unique opportunity to provide colleges with information above and beyond the basics. And with more flexibility and choices than any other nationally available admissions exam, it’s one of the best ways for you to shape the conversation when it comes to test scores.