Understanding the Role of SAT Subject Tests

sat-testWhen the time comes to submit college applications, it’s easy to look back at what caused the most consistent stress: A bevy of timelines, deadlines and requirements.

Once the application process has passed, the worst feeling for a student or parent is a sense of regret at missed opportunity.

Beyond the obvious, better grades, activities and accolades, one way to avoid regret is to carefully consider the wording that schools use in regards to application requirements and suggestions. For instance, the number of colleges requiring SAT Subject Tests is dwindling so students may become less likely to take these content-based examinations. However, buzz words that are on the surface weaker than “required” are not an invitation to neglect these tests.

Before explaining what the message really is behind new buzz words used in lieu of “required,” we must first define SAT Subject Tests.

SAT Subject Tests, 20 in total, are an hour-long and are offered in the following five general subject areas (multiple tests exist for each subject and equate to specific subjects in school such as the Physics Subject test in the Science category): Math, English, History, Languages and Science.

Students may choose to take several tests or a single test, depending upon knowledge of the subject matter and consideration by the schools of interest. These tests vary in format and are an opportunity for students to further showcase their talents in the specific subject areas.

Colleges that do not require these tests may utilize them for additional consideration for admission and/or to place students in the appropriate class(es).

**Sometimes, a student can do so well that certain institutions will award credit in lieu of the student taking introductory classes. For a list of the 20 tests offered, click here and for a list of colleges that require, recommend or consider these tests, click here.

If more and more colleges are not treating SAT Subject Tests as a requirement, then what are they saying about these tests? Colleges that do not require these tests anymore are likely to use one of the following few buzz words to define their stance on SAT Subject Tests. The most popular response from a college is to either, “recommend or encourage,” the student to take SAT Subject Tests.

Much like a strict mother who “recommends” that her daughter to clean her room, it’s clear that the room is getting cleaned or consequences will ensue. Other common alternatives for colleges include “welcoming” students to submit SAT Subject Test scores or “considering” these scores.

While the wording here is not as strong, it still behooves the student to submit high scores. Serious applicants do not wish to take chances and it is pivotal to look beyond the definition of a buzz word and into the true meaning.

*Selective schools still do require SAT Subject Tests and it is important to know which schools require which tests by the beginning of the student’s junior year of high school. SAT Subject Tests are and will likely continue to be a requirement at many of the top institutions in America. We urge students to approach college application requirements on a school by school basis and to verify with each school as to the most up to date information to.

**Once a student is enrolled and often at orientation, placement tests are common to determine which class(es) make sense based on the students ability level.