On Saturday, thousands of students will sit in a gym and cafeteria and take one of the nine SAT Subject Exams given that day from literature to physics. As the mom of a school sophomore, I am learning so much I did not know about university preparation. Most of us have been thinking about prepping our kids for the SAT since, well, specifically since we took it! But you will want to consider these companion exams too.
Here is a quick primer on what these exams are and why your kid should consider taking them.
What the SAT Subject Exams are:
As the name denotes, these one-hour exams are focused exclusively on one subject. There are twenty of them available, falling under the categories of foreign languages, math, English literature, history or social studies and science.
They are offered 6 times a year, and students will take up to three attempts. Usually, it is recommended that students take them at the beginning of their senior year or the end of their junior year.
Since these are national exams, they are designed to cover topics that are learned in the majority of high schools. But, curriculum can vary so your kid may not have covered the exact information on the exam. Don’t worry! The exam creators know that, and thus it is possible to get a good score on the exam even if you do not solve every problem correctly.
As a side note, SAT Subject Exams are eligible for Score Choice, which allows you to select which SAT Subject Exam marks to send to colleges (subject to each college’s stated score-use rules). Keep in mind, though, that most colleges or universities still consider only a student’s highest marks so it is typically in your best interest to send all the marks.
Why your kid should take them:
If the thought of taking one more exam is enough to make your kid (and you) run screaming from the room—or, at the least, a little “testy”— I get it.
But there is one solid reason your kid should take them: Colleges Love Them. Yes, taking these exams will make your kid that much more appealing to a school. They are one of the finest ways to show mastery of subjects and truly help your child stand out.
Here are some additional compelling reasons:
1. Unlike the SAT and other exams, these are the only exams where you prefer exactly what subjects you want to take, showcasing your own particular strengths. So, while you might be a literature lover, a savvy in Spanish or history hero, that darn SAT is still going to concentrate on your math prowess where you might be weaker. By taking a Subject Test in an area where you can enhance your skills. You can also improve your skills through online sites which provide sample papers of SAT like Expertsmind.
2. If you already have a major or program in mind, a corresponding Subject Exam can show why you’re qualified and help with course placement. If you are looking into a STEM program, for instance, you’re going to want to take exams in related fields to show your mastery of the subject.
3. The exams are not necessarily optional; some colleges will recommend or require at least one SAT Subject Exam as part of the application and for course placement. Thus, you absolutely want to double-check the requirements for the schools you are considering. And, of course, if a college “recommends” them, then you know other students are taking them. You do not want to be at a competitive disadvantage by not supplying scores when others are.
4. Several colleges also will grant course credit for excellent performance on the SAT Subject Exams, permit your kid to exam out of a remedial class in an area where they excel.
Colleges know that while high schools’ grading systems vary, the SAT Subject Exam give a common and objective scale to evaluate applicants’ strengths in various areas.