Dec 1, 2012

What you need to know about SAT® Subject Tests

Georgetown University "recommends" 3 SAT Subject Tests

Not every college-bound high school student needs to take SAT Subject Tests or what we used to call SAT II’s.   

But if you’re confused about which colleges require or recommend Subject Tests, you may want to check out a wonderful webpage created and maintained by the Compass Educational Group (Compass Prep) of California.

Similar information may also be found on the College Board, Common Application, or Universal College Application websites, but going any of these routes generally involves clicking through numerous webpages and may be limited to a specific subset of “member” institutions.

The beauty of the Compass Prep table is that all the schools requiring, recommending or considering SAT Subject Tests are contained on one easy-to-understand chart, along with brief “click through” explanations of the requirements.

Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow students to “showcase” achievement in specific subject areas.  There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five subject areas:  English, history, languages, mathematics, and science—you choose up to three tests on any given test date.

Most students take the tests in May or June of junior year.  But in general, you should take tests such as World History, Biology E/M, Chemistry, or Physics as soon as possible after completing a rigorous course in the subject. 

Of the thousands of colleges and universities located across the country, about 100 use SAT Subject Tests in their admissions decisions, although many will “sneak a peek” and consider them if they are submitted.  
And no colleges in the US technically require three. Georgetown and Johns Hopkins “recommend” three, which in admissions-speak usually translates into requires.

In addition to Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, other local schools “strongly” recommending Subject Tests include the University of Virginia and Washington and Lee University.  Again, this usually means that to be competitive, you should submit Subject Test scores—especially if you’re applying from Northern Virginia or other highly competitive school districts.

According to Compass, about thirty colleges and universities require two Subject Tests, but a large portion of those will allow students to substitute the ACT with writing. About seventy other institutions either recommend or simply consider Subject Tests in their admissions processes. 

Be aware that colleges sometimes use the tests for course placement and to advise students about course selection.  And some colleges even specify the tests they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose.

Compass Prep is quick to warn that no list can “replace the nuances of a school’s specific policy.” Students are directed to school websites or admissions offices for the most accurate (and up-to-date) information. 

Used properly, however, this handy reference tool can save students (and counselors) considerable time and aggravation.

Today marks the last SAT test date for 2012. College-bound juniors should be registering for upcoming 2013 tests, typically keeping May and June free for Subject Tests.

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