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Individual Subject Tests

Choosing which SAT Subject Tests to take and when

Students may have questions about which tests to choose and when it's best to take them. Here are some guidelines about taking Subject Tests:

  • Take tests in areas of academic success.
  • Take history and sciences as soon as possible after completing the highest level course work they plan to take in the subject (while the material is still fresh in their minds).
  • Take languages (including the Literature Test) after at least two years of study.

Choosing language tests

Students should take the test that best suits their type of preparation. They should understand that:

  • There is no difference in difficulty between the language tests with listening and the reading-only tests.
  • Colleges may prefer the listening tests to the reading-only tests for placement purposes.
  • College application deadlines may determine the choice of test, since the listening tests are offered only once a year in November.
  • NEW: In response to requests from test-takers and educators, the Italian test is being shifted to June. The December 2014 administration will be the last time this test is offered in June. Please make sure your students plan accordingly.

The scores of native speakers are grouped with those of students who have had less exposure to the language. This means that even students with high grades in language courses may not score as high as native speakers do; however, college admission staff are aware of this and take it into account when they review scores. Students may only take one Language with Listening test in one sitting.

Choosing Biology Tests

Students may not be clear about which emphasis, Ecological or Microbiological, to choose when taking the Biology Test. Encourage students to:

  • Consider if they are more comfortable answering questions about biological communities, populations, and energy flow (Biology E)
  • Consider if they are more comfortable answering questions on biochemistry, cellular structure, and processes, such as respiration and photosynthesis (Biology M)
  • Consult with their biology teacher

Remind them that they will not be allowed to take both tests in one sitting.

Choosing Mathematics Tests

In deciding which mathematics test to take, students should consider:

  • How many years of college-preparatory mathematics they have taken:
    • Level 1 test-takers need two years of algebra and one year of geometry.
    • Level 2 test-takers need two years of algebra, one year of geometry, and elementary functions (precalculus) and/or trigonometry.
  • How familiar they are with how and when to use a scientific or graphing calculator:
    • Both tests include questions that require a scientific or graphing calculator.
    • Level 2 test-takers should be very comfortable using a graphing calculator.

Your students can review the best ways to use a calculator in the approaches for the Mathematics Tests (this links to the student area of this site).

More information about Subject Tests

As they are making their choices about which Subject Tests to take, encourage your students to look at the sample questions and approaches in the Subject Tests Preparation Center (this link takes you to the student area of this site) and in Getting Ready for the SAT Subject Tests.

Customized Entry Pages

Related Materials

Go to the SAT Downloads and Materials Ordering page to view and print these and other related materials:

  • SAT Subject Tests: A Guide for Educators
  • Subject Tests Brochure for Students
  • Educator Handbook for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests
  • Getting Ready for the SAT Subject Tests
  • A Guide for Counselors – SAT and SAT Subject Tests, U.S. edition
  • A Guide for Counselors – SAT and SAT Subject Tests, International edition

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