Chances are high that you've spent time debating between the SAT and the ACT — maybe you've even decided to take both — and while I hate to throw another complication into that equation, there is another set of tests that you might consider taking as well.
While adding more tests to your schedule during your last years of high school may not be the most exciting idea, there is certainly a case to be made for putting a couple of SAT Subject Tests on your schedule. Whereas the SAT tackles a few subjects all at once, Subject Tests focus only on one at a time.
Each of the SAT Subject Tests focuses on one of the following subjects:
- Biology (with a focus on Ecological or Molecular Biology)
- US History
- World History
- English Literature
- Math Level 1
- Math Level 2
- Languages: Spanish, French and German (with or without listening); Chinese, Japanese and Korean (with listening); and Italian, Modern Hebrew and Latin (without listening)
Each of these tests is one hour long, and you can take up to three tests in one day, but you cannot take the SAT on the same day you take the SAT Subject Tests. Furthermore, not every Subject Test is offered on every test date — be sure to plan ahead to ensure you can take the Subject Tests you want to take! Finally, you can only take one Language with listening on a given test day (and if you do, be sure to bring a CD player -- ask your parents if you don't know what that is).
If you're applying to a selective college, you'll most likely have to submit two or three scores — some schools will require them, some will make them optional. Additionally, some schools or programs may require specific Subject Tests, so be sure to do your research! Regardless of where you're applying, it won't ever hurt to add a score from one or two of these tests. At the very least, it's a great way to show your excellence in a particular subject, which will ultimately help your college application stand out.
Here are three more reasons to consider signing up for one or two Subject Tests in case you're still undecided.
As I mentioned above, Subject Tests are the perfect opportunity to show that you stand out in a certain area. This also means that submitting one of these scores can give you an added edge against those who have also declared the major you've chosen. Not only can it set you ahead of the competition, it can also help you express your interest if you already have a major or program in mind.
An extra plus to taking an SAT Subject Test is that it can actually earn you college credit in some rare cases. Certain colleges use these scores to determine whether an applicant can be exempted from various college requirements. One example of this would be if you had an exemplary Subject Test score and your prospective school determined that, with that score, it wouldn't be necessary to take an introductory level English class or a foreign language requirement. It's similar to how AP scores work to your advantage, sometimes earning you college credit for your work in those courses throughout high school.
So while the thought of taking on another test now might not be quite so appealing at first glance, what if it could save you from sitting through another semester of the material you've already proven to be familiar with? A little extra work now, while the content is fresh and familiar, could save you a lot of time and money later.
While Subject Tests are often optional, as discussed above, certain colleges may actually require them. And although those schools may not be colleges that you include on your initial list of prospects, unanticipated circumstances can arise that might lead you to picking different schools later on. Therefore it's a good idea to have a few scores ready to submit just in case this happens. Plus, you can be sure other applicants are submitting them even if a college simply “recommends" the Subject Tests.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why these additional tests can be an extra help in your application process, even if they just seem like one more burden to take on.
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