The lesser known SAT Subject Tests may be required at your colleges of choice; typically, these are used by more selective colleges where they’ll want to see two tests.  Be sure you are checking all testing requirements for each school in which you are interested, so you don’t overlook these important tests if they are required.

What are They?

Really, just what they say they are.  These tests, formerly known as SAT II’s to your parents, are meant to measure achievement in high school courses.  There are 20 possible tests across 5 content areas.  They are different in nature to the SAT as well as different from AP tests, which measure college level curriculum.  You’ll actually find Subject Tests to be more like your classroom tests.

Colleges that REQUIRE (fewest schools)

Typically these are among the most selective colleges.  MIT, for example, requires TWO SAT Subject Tests: one math and one science.  Cornell requires these test for only some majors. There are sometimes other requirements such as those pursuing engineering must have a math test as one of their two tests. For most students required to take two (or three) tests, they are typically tests of your choosing.

Colleges that RECOMMEND

It’s so tempting for a student who feels over-tested, stressed by keeping up with rigorous classes and burdened by a mountain of college applications to forego testing when it’s not required.  Mistake.  The pool of applicants is highly qualified and numerous. To set yourself apart from the crowd, I highly suggest following through with anything that is recommended by the college. This could be the subject tests or interviewing.  Lehigh falls into this category.


Boston University’s policy is a good reminder to read the fine print.  Look for the exceptions! These can include home school students being required to take SAT Subject Tests when others are not or not needing SAT Subject Tests if you are applying with ACT instead of SAT scores. Students pursuing particular degrees being required when others are not or specific SAT Subject Tests being required. I’m sure there are other exceptions, but these are the two most common.

The bottom-line is if a school recommends or requires, just do it! There are certainly ways to maximize your SAT Subject Test Scores.