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SAT Subject Tests
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The subject matter of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests couldn't be more different.
The SAT covers basic math, vocabulary and some general reading ability, while the SAT Subject Tests are designed to measure specific knowledge in a particular academic area like biology or world history. Typically, only very selective schools ask for SAT Subject Tests. Most of these colleges will ask you to take two or three tests. Find out which (if any) are required by your prospective schools far enough in advance that you have time to take them.
Each test is an hour long, and you can take anywhere from one to three in one day. Tests are available in the following subjects: Literature, Chinese with Listening, Math Level 1, French and French with Listening, Math Level 2, German and German with Listening, United States History, Modern Hebrew, World History, Italian, Biology, Japanese with Listening, Chemistry, Korean with Listening, Physics, Latin, Spanish and Spanish with Listening and English Language Proficiency.
All SAT Subject Tests are scored on a scale of 200 to 800; the exception to this rule is the English Language Proficiency Test, which is scored on a scale of 901 to 999. Test that do not involve written responses are graded by a computer. The computer simply adds up the number of questions you answered correctly and then subtracts one-quarter of the number of questions you answered incorrectly (it doesn't count questions you skip). This determines your raw test score, which is then converted to a scaled score.
SAT Subject Tests are administered in October, November, December, January, May and June. Not all of the tests are offered at each location, so it's imperative you check the dates and details on the College Board website carefully. It's important to take the test when the subject is fresh in your mind. So if your chemistry course ends in May, you should sit for either the May or the June exam. If you do well in your 9th grade biology class, you should take that Subject Test at the end of freshman year.
The Silver Lining
The great thing about the SAT Subject Tests is that you can take any one in which you think you might excel. So if you're a history buff or you speak Latin like Caesar, then this is your chance to shine. It is also a great opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge in the field you plan to pursue in college. For example, if you are applying to the premed program, it may be a good idea to take the biology test. At some colleges, a high score enables you to place out of certain required courses.
One important note: ETS allows you to change your mind about which test you'd like to take on test day. If you aren't sure which test you'll feel more confident taking, you can study up until d-day and then decide at the last moment.
Ready to start studying for the SAT Subject Tests? The Princeton Review offers guidebooks and classroom courses.