By JORDI FAXON
The College Board is well-known for providing SAT and AP tests, which many colleges have come to demand in their admissions processes. A creation that the organization is less often recognized for is their mysterious SAT Subject Tests. These are hour-long content-based tests focused on a particular subject which provide students with the opportunity to showcase their strengths to admissions counselors.
If you haven’t heard of these tests before, don’t feel bad because in my sophomore year I, too, was entirely oblivious to the existence of these Subject Tests. In my junior year, I signed up to take the Literature and U.S. History tests, assuming that the lack of publicity was due to how easy the tests were.
Gleefully unaware of the necessary preparation I had forgone, I took a practice U.S. History Test the day before my test date to try my odds and learned quite quickly that the material being tested on was fairly different from the AP U.S. History curriculum.
I got more than half of the questions wrong on the practice test.
While tests from humanities subjects are most often optional, they could still show college admissions counselors that there’s a consistency between your high schools pursuits and your intended college major. This grants them some importance, but if I had instead wanted to pursue chemistry in college, I would have been remiss as the ideal time for me to have taken the Chemistry Subject Test would have been in my sophomore year, when I was taking Chemistry as my science course.
Frankly, our school has work to do in advertising the Subject Tests more, as publicity for them is quite sparse on campus. According to an article from PrepScholar called “Complete List: Colleges that Require SAT Subject Tests,” schools like Cornell University, CalTech Institute and Boston University require applicants to take these tests, most often exclusively for STEM students; many of the University of California schools and Yale University would recommend taking these tests, which for all intents and purposes is identical to requiring them; while schools like New York University and Middlebury College will accept the Subject Tests as an alternative to the SAT and ACT.
One can find SAT tutoring flyers in the Carmel High administration office, free ACT practice tests in the College and Career Center and testing dates across campus. The Subject Tests, while obviously less important, still need to be publicized by the school more so that underclassmen will have at least heard of them by the time they’re juniors, if not even taken some by then.
If you want more information, be sure to visit collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-subject-tests to learn about the subject tests. The College Board has practice questions on their website, and all of our favorite test prep companies—Princeton Review, Kaplan, Barron’s, what have you—offer their own Subject Test workbooks with practice tests and study materials.