Getting a Leg Up: Subject SATs

Students spend months studying for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, known as the SATs. All juniors and proactive sophomores take the PSAT to practice and prepare, but there is one test students may not know about: the subject SAT.

Subject SAT tests are multiple choice assessments based on a specific topic. Unlike the SATs, which are mandatory for all Connecticut juniors, the subject SATs are completely optional.

Students across the nation take the subject SATs to showcase their knowledge of a particular study of their choosing. Each subject test is an hour long. To ensure convenience, the tests are usually administered on the same days and at the same locations as the regular SATs. A student can choose to take up to three subject tests a day. Registration costs $26, plus an extra $20-$26 per additional test. While the SATs are graded on a 1600 point system, each subject SAT is graded on an 800 point system.

The subject a student chooses to be tested on normally corresponds with the field they want to pursue as a career. There are 20 different available tests covering five categories: English, history, languages, mathematics and science. For example, a student planning on becoming a doctor should consider taking the Biology Molecular subject SAT.

Timing is important as well. Kurt Jannke, the advisor for Ledyard High School’s National Honor Society, advises students to take the subject SAT when the subject is relevant and fresh in your mind. “It would be quite wise to take the biology test at the end of the academic year that you are taking AP Biology, even if it is your sophomore year (in May or June),” said Jannke. “Other tests such as Spanish, English or Math 2 are more cumulative in nature, and are probably best taken at the end of your junior year or the fall of your senior year.”

But why bother? Why go through the stress of extra testing if Ledyard High School doesn’t require it?

It’s all about getting into college. Applications with subject SAT scores included stand out to many colleges and universities during the admission process. If a student knows exactly what they want to go to school for, they may take a corresponding subject SAT to help schools gauge their potential in the field. Once accepted, the colleges can even use the scores to help guide class selection. Despite low publicity, some highly selective universities even require their applicants to submit a subject SAT score, including Brown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Harvard University.

College Board encourages students to “play to [their] strengths.” For example, international students should consider testing. There are subject SATs covering nine different languages, including Spanish, Korean and Hebrew. These are a great opportunity for bilingual college applicants to prove their fluency and dedication to a second language.

However, it is true that the vast majority of colleges don’t require applicants to take the subject SATs. It is really up to the student to decide if extra testing will be worth their while. If it seems like too much work for too few advantages, there are other possible steps to take to ensure college admittance. “Take challenging courses,” said Ledyard High School guidance counselor David Doyle. “Participate in extracurricular and out-of-school activities and build relationships with teachers who may be asked to write you a recommendation.” When it all comes down to it, schools want to admit versatile students. “Colleges are looking for well-rounded and involved students, not ‘perfect’ students,” said Jannke. “Do something more and different. Too many kids applying to college look the same to the admissions officers. Be different.”

Rachel Kane, Staff Writer

Junior Rachel Kane is a staff writer for the 2016-2017 Colonel. Aside from playing varsity soccer and tennis, she is also the secretary of Tri-M and dances outside of school.

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