In talking with people I see a lot of confusion related to the SAT Subject Tests. Do you need to take them? How many should you take? Which tests should you take? And the one that probably causes the most trouble, when should I take the Subject Tests?
The general rule of thumb with the Subject Tests is that you should take the test after you have finished the highest level class in that subject area. For instance, if you take AP US History as a sophomore, you should take the US History Subject Test in May or June of sophomore year.
However, the latest you should take an SAT Subject Test is June of junior year. Why? Because in deciding which colleges you will be applying to, it is best to know all of your test scores, including Subject Tests. And by that time you will typically have taken the appropriate classes to prepare you for the Subject Tests.
I know what you’re thinking; great, I’ll just take the Subject Tests at the end of junior year. That might work great for you. But here is where the timing issue really starts to come into play.
You can’t take the Subject Tests and the SAT itself on the same date. And let’s say you plan on taking the Subject Tests during the May SAT administration since you will be preparing for your AP exams anyway. That leaves January, March and June of junior year to take the SAT. I normally recommend that most students take the SAT twice so now you have three days to take two tests.
In an ideal world that works great. But in most peoples lives, things happen. You have an interview for that big scholarship scheduled for one of the mornings. Or you have the state finals for your event on that Saturday. Or you get sick. Or….
But you are into planning everything out so you are reading this article and wondering, what are my other options? Well, you have several options. Option one is to take the SAT Subject Tests before junior year. That frees up another date to take the SAT if needed. Option two is to take one of your SAT’s in fall of junior year which again, frees up a date in spring of junior year for the SAT or Subject Tests. Option three is to take the ACT rather than the SAT. The SAT and ACT do not schedule their tests on the same days which means if you take the ACT, you have every day junior year that the SAT is administered to take the Subject Tests.
Oops, sorry, you don’t. Because the other timing issue with the Subject Tests is that not every Subject Test is offered at every SAT test date. The March SAT date for instance is for the SAT only. No Subject Tests are offered. Taking a reading and listening test in a foreign language? The only date they are offered is during the November administration.
Want to know when Subject Tests are offered during the 2012-2013 year? Here is the schedule for SAT Subject Tests.
And if you are an international student, timing is even more important because the March test date for the SAT is not offered. This means you will have even fewer opportunities to schedule multiple SAT tests and the Subject Tests.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Students who get started on the college admissions process early often have an advantage. Understanding when to take SAT Subject Tests is one of the advantages that you now have.