SAT Subject Tests
SAT Subject Tests
ShutterStockStudio /

SAT Subject Tests are one-hour exams offered in 20 topics within English, math, science, history, and foreign language. High SAT Subject Test scores strengthen a student’s college application by showcasing their abilities in a particular area of interest (or two or three). Some schools require or recommend that applicants submit SAT Subject Test scores with their other application materials, though other schools may only require the SAT or ACT, or no tests at all. College academic advisors may consider SAT Subject Test scores when determining if their advisees are eligible to place out of introductory courses.

Why should I take SAT Subject Tests?

If you are applying to any competitive schools or programs, SAT Subject Tests may be required for admission. These tests provide an opportunity to strengthen your application by highlighting your talents in a particular area of interest. If you are an excellent student of biology, for example, a strong SAT Subject Test score in biology could enhance your application to a pre-med program. Sometimes, colleges use high scores on SAT Subject Tests to determine whether you can place out of introductory courses and move into classes that are more appropriate for your level and interests.

High scores on SAT Subject Tests can offset low scores on the SAT or ACT. This is especially true for English as a Second Language or international students. If English is not your best language, you may become a more competitive applicant by achieving high scores on math, science, or other language tests. Bilingual or multilingual students should consider taking language tests to highlight their mastery of multiple languages.

How many schools require submission of SAT Subject Test scores?

Over 200 schools require or suggest that applicants submit SAT Subject Test scores. Check the admissions criteria for schools and specific university programs to which you plan to apply. Some colleges require scores from at least two SAT Subject Tests and may or may not specify which ones to take.

It’s in your best interest to sit for these tests if a school says these scores are “strongly recommended” or will be “considered” along with other application materials. You want to be able to compete with other applicants who went the extra mile by submitting their SAT Subject Test results.

What tests are available?

  • Mathematics Level I (geometry and algebra)
  • Mathematics Level II (material covered in Mathematics Level I, plus precalculus and trigonometry)
  • Biology Ecological/Molecular
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Literature
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Spanish
  • Spanish with Listening
  • German
  • German with Listening
  • French
  • French with Listening
  • Italian
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Latin
  • Chinese with Listening
  • Japanese with Listening
  • Korean with Listening

When should I take SAT Subject Tests?

Ideally, you should take SAT Subject Tests immediately following the completion of the corresponding course in school so that the material is still fresh in your mind. You are eligible to register for the SAT Subject Tests any time, but it will be difficult to take them during your busy senior year, so plan ahead.

How do I register for SAT Subject Tests?

To register for SAT Subject Tests, create a College Board Account. There is a $26.00 registration fee for one test day, plus an additional $22.00 fee per subject test or an additional $26.00 fee for each language with listening test. You can take three tests in one sitting, but only one can be a language with listening test. With each registration fee, you receive four free score reports to send to your chosen colleges.

There are additional fees if you change your test center or test day ($30.00), register after the regular deadline ($30.00), or are admitted into a test off of the waitlist ($53.00). If, after registering, something happens that causes you to miss your test, try contacting the College Board and switching your date. This will save you money in the long run, since tests cancelled within five days of the test date receive no refund, and tests cancelled more than five days from test date will only receive a $10.00 refund.

Are there fee waivers for the tests?

Yes, fee waivers are available to cover the cost of SAT Subject Tests. If you qualify, you can sit for two test sessions for free. In each session, you can take three tests, so you’ll be able to take up to six free SAT Subject Tests over two test sessions. Your high school counselor or an authorized community-based organization can give you a waiver if you meet one of the following requirements as listed on the College Board website:

  • You are enrolled in or eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • Your family’s annual income is within the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
  • You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., a Federal TRIO program, such as Upward Bound).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in federally subsidized public housing or a foster home.
  • You are homeless.
  • You are a ward of the state or an orphan.

With your registration fee, you will receive four free score reports to use within nine days of taking your SAT Subject Tests, but you will also receive four reports that can be used any time you are in high school. This is helpful in case you change your mind about which colleges you are considering and need to send your scores to additional schools.

How do I register for SAT Subject Tests if I have a disability?

If you have a disability and you need extra time to take the test, extra or extended breaks, accommodations for a visual or hearing impairment, use of a computer, or any other test center accommodations for documented disabilities, you will need to submit supporting documents to the College Board for approval. This can take nearly two months, so be sure to contact the College Board well in advance of when you want to take the test. Visit the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities page to learn more about registration.

How do I register for a non-Saturday SAT Subject Test date?

If your religious beliefs prevent you from testing on Saturdays and it is your first time registering for a College Board test, you will need to send in a letter from a religious leader on official letterhead explaining why your test availability is restricted. You must register for the test through the postal service. For directions, visit the College Board’s Requesting Sunday Testing page. If a request has already been approved from a previous College Board test, you can register online for additional test dates without having to seek approval a second time.

Should I study for SAT Subject Tests?

Yes. While it’s recommended to take the test following the completion of the corresponding course, you should still review the subject matter and use practice materials in case your teacher skipped over anything in class. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that will be asked and the structure of the test. You have many options for studying: online resources, books, and private tutoring. Here are some resources for SAT Subject Tests:

  • The College Board: The College Board provides free online practice questions with answer explanations. As the official maker of SAT Subject Tests, it will give you questions that are more accurate than any other resource.
  • The College Board All-Subject Guide: If you are planning on taking tests in multiple subjects, you might want to consider purchasing this all-subject study guide from the official test-makers. It comes with 20 previously administered practice tests (one for each subject) and two CDs that cover all six languages.

When will my scores be available?

Historically, the College Board has released scores as few as two weeks after the test, but not much earlier. Though you may be anxious to see your scores right away, you’re going to have to settle in and wait it out. Processing time may depend on any number of factors, from the number of students who took SAT Subject Tests on a certain day worldwide to the number of students who took a particular Subject Test. Shortly after you receive your scores, so will your designated colleges.

How do I send scores to schools?

When you register for the test through the College Board website, you can add four schools to your profile for free. After your scores are official, your results will automatically be sent to those colleges. You can change or add schools to your list of four any time within the first nine days following test completion. To send your scores to additional schools, you will have to pay extra.

  • Four free reports: If you utilize the four free score reports, your test results will be sent to schools as soon as they become official. This means that you will not have the opportunity to view your scores before they are sent out. If your schools do not require submission of reports from every day of testing, it might be best to forgo the four free reports and pay the regular fee to make sure you are happy with your results.
  • Score Choice: When sending score reports to schools, the College Board allows you to select the test days or the test subjects you would like each college to see. If you use the “SAT Score Choice” feature, you will not be charged extra to tailor your account. Make sure to check the admissions requirements for a school before using Score Choice, however. Some schools require submission of all test day scores and frown upon SAT Score Choice.

What do my test scores mean?

Subject Tests are scored on a 200-800 scale with additional listening scores reported for language tests with listening; these are reported on a 20-80 scale. To see if your scores fall within the accepted students’ range for a particular school, check its freshman admissions or admissions statistics page. It’s better to pay attention to the accepted students’ range at your prospective institution than the national percentile listed on your report, since different schools have different admissions requirements and student bodies. Students who take SAT Subject Tests are often at the top of their classes and excel in the subjects they have chosen. Even if you score well, you may be in a lower percentile than you would have expected due to the caliber of students who are taking the test. Focus on the scores needed for acceptance and not how you compare to others throughout the United States.

Page last updated: 05/2019