What are SAT Subject Tests?

If you are confused whether SAT is a singular test or its has a series of assessments, then this article is the one for you. In this article we talk all about what are SAT subjects tests and answer the most often asked queries related to the SAT subject tests. To know more, read the entire piece.

TCM Staff

21st April 2020

We have often heard that SAT is a singular and standalone test. But how far is it true? Well, in reality SAT is not a singular test, in fact it is a series of assessments which includes subject tests as well. It starts with PSAT and progresses to singular SAT. 

What exactly are SAT subject Tests?

Well first of all let’s understand what is the meaning of SAT subject tests.SAT Subject Tests are nothing but a standardised test consisting of  20 multiple-choice questions conducted by the college board on individual subjects. These SAT subject tests are also famously known as SAT II tests. They are basically one houred tests that you need to appear for. These tests are usually taken to check a student’s credentials and how knowledgeable and efficient they are in certain subjects which they have applied for to major in colleges of their choice.

There are many colleges in the United States who require SAT subject tests for admission in their college. The good news here is you have the option of choosing the subjects of your choice with a rare exception of a few colleges who have prefixed  mandatory subject tests that you have to take as a part of their admissions curriculum.

Do you have more questions about SAT Subject Tests? If so, then you are in the right place. Here are 10 things you need to know about SAT Subject Tests.

What SAT Subject Tests are available?

 Currently, SAT Subject Tests are available for the following subjects




Math Level I


Math Level II


Biology E/M








U.S. History


World History




Spanish with Listening




French with Listening


Chinese with Listening






German with Listening


Modern Hebrew




Japanese with Listening


Korean with Listening

As you can see there are a series of options which are available for the test.

You can choose any language test based on your strength. So through this test you can highlight and showcase your strength in these areas. 

What are the colleges that Demand SAT subject tests?

There are a few reputed colleges which ask SAT subject tests scores. If you look at the number then you will find that only a few colleges demand SAT subject tests.  "These four institutions require the subject test results from all of their applicants," said Cigus Vanni, a college consultant in Wynnewood, PA, who compiled the subject test list for members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC):  

  • California Institute of Technology

  • Harvey Mudd College

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Webb Institute

Are SAT Subject tests requirements flexible?

Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University and Wellesley College were those few colleges or schools which demanded SAT subject scores. Now they have removed this policy of theirs and they no longer require or demand these subject test scores since 2017. The trend which is very evident nowadays is not to be so stringent regarding these scores. So, yes the answer to this question is yes, SAT subject requirements have become flexible.

How can you handle recommended testing?

It can be a little tricky as well as tough to interpret how important these tests are at individual campuses. Universities like Georgetown University and Duke University strongly recommend applicants turn in subject test scores, but they don’t officially require them.

Many times it irritates students as some universities wont mention in their website that these tests are mandatory but later they will ask the candidates to submit the score of these tests.

Here, for instance, is Stanford University’s advice: “If you believe Subject Tests can highlight your areas of strength, we welcome the self-reporting of these results in your application.”

This is what Georgia Institute of Technology’s has to say about the exams: “You are welcome to submit them if you think they support your application.”

And here is the University of Michigan’s take on subject tests: “If you include these (Subject Tests) results as part of your application, we will consider them only in light of how they might benefit your review.”

So, what should you as a student do, whether you should write these tests or not. It's a tough and difficult decision to make. If  it's possible to appear in a few SAT subjects, then you should go for it. Because it will be an advantage on your side and it will make your application stronger.

If a student can excel on more than the number of subject tests recommended by a school without too much effort, it’s probably worth doing. But if it requires a lot of effort from your end then you can skip these tests. But do check on the website of the colleges whether your college is asking to appear for these tests or not.

What majors demand SAT subject tests?

There are few majors which require SAT subject scores. Mostly engineering majors do require SAT subject tests. The University of California–Los Angeles makes it very important that any aspirant who is looking for admission in this college must attend SAT subject tests. The student should meet the minimum admission requirement as well as they should have attended these SAT subject tests i.e. the SAT Math Level 2 and a science subject test. 

Northwestern University asks students to appear and submit three subject test results. In many cases even the accelerated bachelor’s degree or medical degree programs do require SAT subjects score.

Is there any trick to Avoid Subject Tests?

There are a few colleges which don’t ask for SAT subject tests if you have appeared for the ACT test. Tufts University and Rice University falls in this category.

Do I need to  take Practice Tests

Yes, it is always a good idea to take a practice test. Practice often gives you the real feeling of what an actual test could be. So Before taking a subject test, you should try a timed practice test. So, you can always go to some test prep firm and give a prep test and review results.

What can be the right time to take the test?

Most students prefer May month for this test as by this time they have some idea of what Advanced Prep is and they have gained in depth knowledge in some subjects. 

Some AP exams are somewhat similar with subject tests, but others don’t. For example, the AP Literature exam aligns closely with the testing on the subject test for literature. The Math Level I and Math Level II tests, however, aren’t aligned to a specific AP course.

Can I choose a subject according to my strength?

Yes, you can choose a subject based on your strength. But there are certain tests which are mandatory, rest you can choose. So choose those subjects where you can score maximum marks and you have a high chance of success.

How long does this subject test take?

Subject tests consist of a maximum one hour, which is often a multiple choice exam. Students can take up to three subject tests during one testing date. But the AP tests are of three hours. These AP tests consist of multiple choices as well as essay writing section.

When  Can I Take the SAT Subject Tests?

You can appear foreign language test only in November as it is available in November only. For other tests you can refer to the SAT official website, where you will get all the details.

Now that you have a clear idea about what exactly are SAT subject tests and the answers to the most often asked questions related to the SAT subject tests, you might as well start preping for the tests. We wish you all the luck for your future endeavours.

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