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How to Choose Which SAT II Subject Tests to Take

July 09, 2012 :: Admissionado Team

You’ve rolled up your sleeves. You’ve got the College Board Handbook in front of you, and maybe a bag of chips or M&Ms. Now, do you close your eyes and point to the page and take whichever test your finger lands on? Maybe not the best strategy.

Here’s what we recommend:

First, get the required ones out of the way.

Sometimes colleges require you to take certain SAT II subject tests. This could be for any number of reasons. Maybe they think the writing portion of the SAT I isn’t enough to gauge your writing skills. Maybe if you’re applying for a pre-Med program they want your scores on one of the science SAT IIs for admissions information. Search through the application packet, the college’s website, and double-check with admissions to make sure you aren’t missing any required SAT IIs. Those subject tests are your first priority.

Next, decide which ones you will perform well on.

If you have the option to pick which SAT IIs to take, then you want to pick the subjects that you feel strong in. It’s like picking someone to write you a recommendation letter: are you going to ask someone who will make you look bad, or make you look good? Obviously, you’ll go with the latter. The same thing goes for the SAT II exams. If you are very strong in math but weak in Spanish, take a math exam. If you know a ton about American history, you don’t need to take Physics. If you enjoy geeking out over Chemistry and studying for that test won’t be so painful, that’s the test for you. Look at sample tests online or in test prep books to get a sense of how the material is covered on the exams, too. Ask your teachers for their advice – it’s likely they’re familiar with the subject tests in their discipline and can help you figure out if you’d perform well.

Which tests will help you achieve your goals in college?

Who says it’s all about the admissions committee? What can YOU get out of the SAT IIs? Plenty! Sometimes colleges will use SAT II scores to place you in higher course levels. Say you score over 750 in French – sometimes colleges will count that towards your college language requirement, freeing up more credits in your schedule for electives. Some colleges may even give you college credit for high scores. Contact admissions to find out whether they use the SAT IIs this way, and if so, it might be worth it to take those tests.

Now you’ve picked out your exams, and it’s time to start studying….

Come back next week to see if it’s worth it to double major!