A Word About the SAT Subject Tests


Charlotte Mandy, Editor

“It’s the end of the school-year in a few weeks,” you protest. “There aren’t more SATs until August. Leave me alone!”

Fair enough, but I have an open letter to my past freshman/sophomore year self and therefore to any underclassmen (and juniors with the time) who are considering taking the SAT subject tests.

Take them. Take two, three—as many as you can afford and have the time, ability, and patience. Or all three, if you’re lucky. They’re sixty minute tests on largely memorization-based material that does not vary much from year to year; there are plenty of prep books and online study programs if you feel you want to go the extra mile beyond in-class preparation.

If this is something that interests you, start soon.

You can take three per test date. As long as you feel a class or independent study has prepared you for them, start taking them at the end of freshman year. Why? I tend to criticize tests for their simplification of the character and quality of students (insert rambling speech here), but it’s true that, numerically at least, they provide a baseline for college admissions across the country and the world.

Some of the most selective and sought-after colleges require at least two subject tests, and you’ll want to have at least a few to pick from over your high school career (or, like me, you’ll realize later on that you actually like a particular school and perhaps need them more than you had thought). When it comes to preparation for applications to college, it’s always a good decision to get as much of it out of the way as soon as you can, so long as it’s not something that requires the cumulative learning and maturity of several years. That way, when senior year rolls around, you’re not scrambling.

Anyway, back to SATs — Subject Tests are an opportunity to show your expertise in a more specific area of study, something appealing many colleges, even if they don’t require it.

Even you’re a collegial rebel and you’d like to think outside of Standardized Test World, they can simply be a good bookend to a year of work and study, and good scores can represent knowledge you’ve taken the time to commit to memory.

Potential subjects? US or World History, Literature, Math I or II, Biology Ecology or Biology Molecular, Physics, Spanish…anything you can think of, really, within reason. There are at least 20.

The colleges requiring SAT Subject Tests? Lofty schools, but the aspirations of many Shawnee students are set high, and with good reason. Here’s a few for your contemplation: Cornell, MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Webb Institute, California Institute of Technology, Harvey Mudd… Dozens more recommend or consider them.

The next SAT test date is August 25th.

I’d recommend looking into more detailed information on all their tests, including the standard SAT/ SAT with essay, at CollegeBoard. It’s down to you to figure out what exactly is worth your time and money in these years leading up to your graduation. Supplements like the Subject Tests are something to keep in mind this summer and going into the 2018-19 school year.

(But let’s not think about that just yet. Summer first.)