Planning Ahead for Your SAT Subject Tests

Offered six times a year, SAT Subject Tests (formerly known as SAT II’s) are an excellent opportunity for students not only to check off an admissions requirement for many competitive universities, but also to create a compelling narrative about their interests and special skills. If you are taking AP Biology and plan to study pre-med, why not take the SAT Subject Test in Biology and show off your aptitude for the subject? Have you studied Hebrew outside of school? Then the Hebrew Subject Test could be a way to make your application pop and draw attention to an interesting ability that you will bring to a school’s campus.

We frequently receive questions about when students should consider taking these Subject Tests in order to maximize their scores. The subject tests are offered on the same days and at the same locations as the full SAT examinations; next year the subject tests will be offered in August, October, November, December, May, and June. Once you have determined which tests you wish to take, you will first want to check the schedule to see when each test is offered. While 6 dates are set aside for the subject tests, not every test is offered on every date. For example, all of the language-based subject tests with listening are only offered in November, whereas all tests except for the listening exams are offered on the June test date. A tentative schedule for the 2017-2018 testing cycle is available on the College Board website.

Generally speaking, the best time to take the SAT Subject Tests is when a student has finished studying a particular subject in school. Since students take their AP exams in May, the May administration is typically the best time for students to take their subject tests, as they can easily translate the study time they put towards their AP exams into the SAT Subject Tests. Since the tests are one hour-long, multiple choice tests, they are generally less stress-inducing than their AP counterparts–most AP exams are 3 hours long with a combination of multiple choice questions and free response essays. Therefore, even though the first two weeks in May tend to be hectic due to final preparations for the AP examinations, students are encouraged to go ahead and take the exams in order to maximize the carry-over between their prep for the AP exam and the corresponding SAT Subject Test.

That being said, not all SAT Subject Tests align perfectly with a given AP Subject. The Math Level I and Math Level II examinations, for example, are not tied to any particular AP class. If a student completes Algebra II or Precalculus sophomore year, she should be prepared to take the Math Level II test on the May test date.  The SAT Subject Test in Literature, on the other hand, aligns closely with the AP Literature material, so a student might wait for senior year to take this subject test, assuming he takes AP Lit during senior year.

Because each subject test lasts for one hour, you are able to take up to 3 tests on any given test date. That being said, you cannot take the full SAT and Subject Tests on the same day. As a result, it is important to plan ahead with regards to how you will space out any official SAT test dates–you don’t want to be in a situation where you absolutely need to take the full SAT on a date that will coincide with your last chance to sit for a particular Subject Test.

As always, if you have any concerns about which tests may be most appropriate for you or your student, I would encourage you to give our team a call; we are happy to strategize with you about which tests to take, when to take them, and to answer any questions about the content on each examination as well.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or info@applerouth.com.