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Articles / Preparing for College / What to Know About the SAT French Subject Test

Jan. 8, 2020

What to Know About the SAT French Subject Test

What to Know About the SAT French Subject Test

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You've got plenty of options when it comes to SAT Subject Tests. You'll see about 20 different tests spanning five different subject areas, one of which is foreign language. Of course, any of the tests you add to your schedule should be in subjects you're well-equipped to tackle, meaning you've studied them thoroughly. So if you're considering the SAT Subject Test in French, here are a few things to know.


What's on the Test

The French Subject Test is testing what should have been taught in a minimum of two years of regular French study in high school. Only widely accepted French language is used on the test, which means you won't encounter slang terms or phrases. In other words, you'll be tested on l'Académie française French, not what you might encounter in other francophone countries.

The SAT Subject Test consists approximately of the following categories: Vocabulary (30 percent); grammar (40 percent); and reading comprehension (30 percent). Among these three subjects, you'll see four types of multiple-choice questions in a format that looks something like this:

  • Part A — Vocabulary Completions (~20–26 questions)
  • Part B — Grammar Blanks (~15–20 questions)
  • Part C — Paragraph Blanks (~12–20 questions)
  • Part D — Reading Comprehension (~27 questions)

Part C's questions cover both vocabulary and grammar — you'll be able to tell based on what's changing in the answer choices. The exact breakdown varies from test to test, but you will always have 60 minutes to answer a total of 85 questions. The way this test differentiates from, say, the regular SAT is that it's not broken down into timed segments for each section — you can skip around the entire test within that 60-minute window.

You also have the option of taking the Subject Test in French with Listening, which contains an additional audio portion to evaluate your ability to comprehend spoken French. Here, you will listen to a recording and answer multiple-choice questions based on what you hear. There will still be around 85 total questions for a 60-minute test, with 20 minutes devoted to the Listening portion and 40 to the rest. This test is still only one hour long, and you'll need to bring a CD player and headphones to hear the listening portion of the test.

How to Study for the Test

Formulating a study plan for the SAT Subject Test in French (and any test, for that matter) will, of course, depend on your strengths and weaknesses. Because of that, your first step should be to, well, identify those strengths and weaknesses. To do that, you can take practice tests like those in our SAT Subject Test French Prep book.

More generally, though, let's take another look at those three elements that are being tested here, specifically how they might interact with one another. For instance, in order to comprehend the reading, you'll have to know the vocabulary that is being used, right? That means having a strong French vocabulary will be an unmatched asset on this test. If you feel confident in your knowledge there, this may make for a good test for you.

As for grammar, you won't need to worry about things like spelling — the accents will be placed for you! — or correct word order in a sentence. Nor will you need to know how to conjugate the passé simple (the past definite) or the imperfect subjunctive tenses. So, whether those are strengths of yours or weaknesses should inform your decision as well. What will be tested includes the use of pronouns, verbs, prepositions and other similar topics.

When the Test is Available

The SAT Subject Test in French is offered four times throughout the year, traditionally on all SAT Subject Test dates except those in November in May. Those two administrations are reserved for the French with Listening test. Apart from deciding between the two tests, there are no advantages between one test date and another.

So, if you need to meet SAT Subject Test requirements at your target colleges and all of what I've just laid out sounds doable, consider adding the French exam (as long as the colleges on your list don't require specific tests that aren't French, of course). Then, study up with the help of our books and/or tutors to score your highest.

Written by

Rob Franek

Rob Franek

College Admissions and Test Prep Expert

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