The purpose of SAT Subject Tests


Senior Aly Johnston studying for the Math II subject test.

This Saturday, many Wilsonville students are taking the SAT Subject Tests. Subject tests are one-hour, multiple-choice tests offered in a variety of subjects that some students take to demonstrate their proficiency in certain areas. 

There are five different topics of subject tests and twenty different exams in total. Students can take Math I, Math II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English Literature, US History, World History, or any of a number of language tests, either with or without a listening portion. 

But why do students take these exams at all? They’re not nearly as popular as the SAT or ACT, and many people have never even heard of them. Still, thousands of students every year hit the books in preparation for these tests. 

It all comes down to college applications. Certain colleges require or recommend subject tests, and some colleges ask for students to take specific tests depending on their intended major. These schools are usually highly competitive and can use subject test scores to determine which students will be admitted. 

Schools like MIT and Rice University require two subject tests each, while others, like Stanford and the UC schools, either recommend or simply consider the exams. 

Senior Sydney Byun has taken two subject tests already and is taking two more this weekend. She took the US History exam at the end of her sophomore year, right after finishing APUSH. She recommends this, saying “Take the test right after you finish the corresponding class. You’ll never be as prepared as you were right after the AP test or final exam for that class.” 

Because the tests are only required by competitive universities, the students that take them are typically very invested. The tests are scored from 200-800, and many students place in the upper 700s or even receive an 800 on one or more subject tests. Therefore, if you’re looking into taking the exams, plan ahead and sign up for ones that correspond with your classes, and take the test in the spring after finishing that course. They’re difficult exams, but a high score can be worth all the effort.