SAT Subject Tests™

The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour multiple-choice tests administered on each SAT test date (except in March). If you're applying to a selective college, you'll probably need to submit scores from at least two SAT Subject Tests. As you develop your college list, keep track of each school's admission requirements. If you're not sure where you're going to apply yet, plan to take at least two SAT Subject Tests, and remember that if a school “recommends” Subject Tests, you should go ahead and take them.

Tests are available in the following subjects:

  • English Literature,
  • History (U.S. or World),
  • Language (Chinese, French, Hebrew, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Spanish or German),
  • Math (Level 1 or Level 2),
  • and Science (Biology-Ecological, Biology-Molecular, Chemistry or Physics)

Language tests can be written only or written with listening. The dates on which you can take a particular language test may vary.

You may take up to three Subject Tests in one sitting, although you should spread them out if you can. On test day, you are allowed to change the number of tests or subject you take with no penalty—except for Language with Listening tests. Also only one Biology test can be taken per test date. (The first 60 questions of the Biology test are the same whether you take Biology-Ecological or Biology-Molecular. Thus, you can take only one or the other.)

How are SAT Subject Tests™ scored?

Each Subject Test is scored on a 200–800 scale. You get 1 point for each correct answer, and ¼ point is deducted for each question you answer incorrectly. That means you shouldn't necessarily answer every question, but guessing is always a good idea if you can eliminate two or three of the options.

Even though they're scored on the same 200–800 scale, SAT Subject Test scores can't be compared to general SAT ® scores because the Subject Tests are taken by a higher percentage of high-achieving students. For example, a 750 on the math section of the SAT would put you in the 99th percentile, but a 750 on the SAT Math Level 2 Subject Test would place you only in the 79th percentile. Likewise, for the SAT Chemistry Subject Test, a 750 only ranks at the 82nd percentile.

So what's a good score? That depends on the school to which you are applying. Many colleges are happy with scores of 650 or above, but highly selective schools may want to see a 700 or 750 — or even higher — in the case of Math Level 2.

Woman drinking coffee, studying on bed

True or False? SAT Subject Test™ Myths

The more Subject Tests I take, the better!

False. Don't knock yourself out! Schools that require or recommend Subject Tests will only consider scores from the tests they ask for.

If a school recommends Subject Tests, I should take them.

True. Many of the applicants you're competing with will submit their scores to schools that recommend Subject Tests, so don't put yourself at a competitive disadvantage by not taking them! Choose your subjects wisely and prepare so you can do well.

Every school will accept ACT ® scores in lieu of Subject Tests.

False. While some schools only require Subject Tests for students who take the SAT, many others ask for Subject Tests regardless of whether you take the SAT or the ACT.

Some students should take Subject Tests before junior year.

True. If you are taking a course in 9th or 10th grade that has a corresponding Subject Test, you should prepare for and sit for that Subject Test at the end of the school year. Many 9th graders are ready to take the Biology Subject Test, and if you plan to take AP ® Biology in 11th grade, you can retake the test then if needed, since colleges will only use your highest score. Some 10th graders opt to take the World History Subject Test, while others who are in honors Algebra II or Trigonometry courses choose to go for Math Level 1 or 2.

If I do well on an AP ® Exam, I will automatically do well on the corresponding Subject Test.

False. While there is some content overlap between Subject Tests and AP Exams, the topics covered on SAT Subject Tests may differ from those that appear on AP Exams. So it's important to prepare adequately and to ensure you know what content is tested on each.

I should avoid taking a language Subject Test if I am not fluent.

True. Many students who speak a foreign language fluently will take the corresponding Subject Test in that language and get a perfect score. That means the curve is not likely to be in your favor. For instance, a score of 750 on the Spanish Subject Test will rank in the 72nd percentile.

I should take Math Level 2 because it has a better curve than Level 1.

False. While it is true that Math Level 2 has a relatively favorable curve, the test is significantly more difficult than Math Level 1. That means the percentiles associated with scores below 800 are quite low. For example, a 750 on Math Level 2 ranks in the 68th percentile.

Unless you plan to apply to engineering schools, or you just really love math and standardized tests, you're probably better off preparing for and taking Math Level I. You'll be more likely to achieve a higher percentile.

Young man walking up stairs

SAT Subject Tests sample questions

Try these problems from four of the most popular SAT Subject Tests. To see the answers, go to the bottom of the page.


  1. The role of decomposers in the nitrogen cycle is to

    1. Fix atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia.
    2. Incorporate nitrogen into amino acids and organic compounds.
    3. Convert ammonia into nitrate, which can then be absorbed by plants.
    4. Denitrify ammonia, thus returning nitrogen to the atmosphere.
    5. Release ammonia from organic compounds, thus returning it to the soil.
  2. If one ribose molecule were bonded to one adenine molecule and one phosphate molecule, we would have:

    1. A ribosome
    2. A nucleotide
    3. Nucleic acid
    4. ATP
    5. ADP


  1. A compound with a molecular weight of 56 amu has an empirical formula of CH2. What is its molecular formula?

    1. C 2 H 2
    2. C 2 H 4
    3. C 4 H 8
    4. C 4 H 10
    5. C 6 H 12
  2. Bromothymol blue is an acid/base indicator with a p K a of 6.8. Therefore, at approximately what pH will bromothymol blue undergo a color change during an acid/base titration?

    1. 1
    2. 3
    3. 5
    4. 7
    5. 13

Math Level 2

  1. Circle O is centered at (–3, 1) and has a radius of 4. Circle P is centered at (4, –4) and has a radius of n . If Circle O is externally tangent to circle P , then what is the value of n ?

    1. 4.00
    2. 4.37
    3. 4.60
    4. 5.28
    5. 6.25
  2. In the function g(x) = A[sin (Bx + C) + D] , constants are represented by A , B , C , and D . If x is to be altered in such a way that both its period and amplitude are increased, which of the following constants must be increased?

    1. A only
    2. B only
    3. C only
    4. A and B only
    5. C and D only

U.S. History

  1. The “spoils system” favored by President Andrew Jackson led to:

    1. The establishment of the Food and Drug Administration.
    2. The development of negative campaign tactics still in use today.
    3. The distribution of government jobs to members of the president's party.
    4. The increase in legal discrimination based on race.
    5. The defeat of American troops in the War of 1812.
  2. The ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence are most similar to those expressed in which of the following?

    1. Machiavelli's The Prince
    2. Plato's Republic
    3. Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan
    4. John Lock's Two Treatises on Government
    5. St. Augustine's City of God

Answers are below. How did you do? It's not too late to work with a tutor to get a better grasp on content and learn our exclusive test-taking strategies.

  1. E
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. C
  6. A
  7. C
  8. D

Test names are trademarks of their respective owners, who are not affiliated with The Princeton Review.

writing in a journal

Test names are trademarks of their respective owners, who are not affiliated with The Princeton Review.