What are SAT Subject Tests?

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

For many high school students across the world, the SAT Subject Tests, also known as SAT II tests, can cause a bit of confusion. We know about the SAT requirements, but what are these subject tests?

Which Subject Tests do I take? When do I take them? How important are they for college admissions? Use this blog post to answer your head scratching questions!

SAT Subject Test Options:

There are 20 different SAT Subject Tests ranging across several subjects. Here is a table of all the different tests that College Board offers:

Math: Math Level 1, Math Level 2

Science: Biology E/M, Chemistry, Physics

English: Literature

History: US History, World History

Languages: Spanish, Spanish With Listening, French, French with Listening, Chinese With Listening, Italian, German, German With Listening, Modern Hebrew, Latin, Japanese With Listening, Korean With Listening

Wow. That's a lot! We've talked about the fact that the U.S loves variety in their university education, and well rounded students. The subject tests help to bolster your application.

What do Colleges Require?

Every college is different. Some require four subject tests, some require none! It is best to look as early as possible what the subject test requirements are.

PRO TIP: Some of the more selective U.S universities prefer a wide variety of knowledge across a diversity of subjects. Georgetown University highly recommends applicants to submit 3 subject test results.

How Important are Subject Tests for Admission?

Generally speaking, SAT Subject Tests are among the least important factors in college admission. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling reported in 2019 that only 2% of universities considered SAT II scores of considerable importance. Still, 15% of U.S universities still stated that SAT II scores are an important factor, albeit a limited one.

Subject Test Scores are not as important as things such as GPA, SAT, Essays, etc. for universities in the US. However, our experts tell us that if your grades in high school were not as good as others, good Subject Test scores can prove to admissions officers that you are capable of college-level coursework. Tests do not determine your fate; but good scores show a mastery of skills.

Which Subject Tests Should You Take?

The purpose of these SAT Subject Tests are to show universities subject mastery, that you know the content of the subject extremely well and that you’ve taken the time to study for this exam while working on other things such as SAT and GPA.

However, when looking to decide which one of these 20 exams to take, it’s important to ask the following question to yourself:

  • What have I studied in High School?

  • What classes have I done really well in?

  • What topics do I know really well?

  • What are my future goals?

  • What are my passions?

Several subject tests have variations. For example, in the Biology exam, there is a specialization or focus from a molecular and ecological standpoint. Same thing with Math. The Math Subject Test offers a Math Level 1 and 2. Language Subject Test offers listening and non-listening options.

The ideal time to take a subject test is at the end of your school year. A popular choice by students is in May or June.

PRO TIP: Many students find it helpful to schedule a Subject Test close to a final or an AP/IB Exam so you're already invested in studying that particular subject.

PRO TIP: Students like to find out which subject tests are the easiest. Generally, students have shown very high averages on Math Level 2 and certain language exams.


Subject tests are not something to fret over. However, it is important to research your college list as soon as possible to see if your school requires them! An applicant who has three impressive subject test results can demonstrate their ability to specialize in a variety of subjects over an applicant who cannot.

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