SAT Subject Tests: How Many Should You Take?

You can take as many SAT subject tests as you want, but how many should you realistically take?Each SAT subject test is an hour long, multiple choice test. In those 60 minutes you have the opportunity to show potential colleges/universities your strengths and interests.  YOU get to pick which of the 20 subject tests you want take. How many should you take? How do you choose?

There are 3 big factors to consider when deciding how many SAT subject tests to take:

  • Where you are planning on applying
  • How many subjects you consider “strength” areas
  • Timing.

College application requirements

The number of SAT subject tests you have to take will depend on which schools you’re planning on applying to. Usually they require anywhere between 0 and 3. Sometimes admission departments will specify which subjects you need to take, otherwise you have free reign.

Remember, if an application says submitting scores is “recommended”, you might as well read it as “required”.

Take tests you can ace

The more selective the school, the more you’ll need to show off your abilities. SAT subject tests are a great way to do that. However, that doesn’t mean you should take 14 of the 20 tests just so you have more scores to send.

Unless otherwise required, only take the subject tests you think you will do extremely well on. These scores should support your application–they should help you stand out.

Another reason to consider taking a subject test is if you think you could do well enough to pass out of an introductory course once in college. Some schools use these tests as a way to gauge which course level to start you in. Chances are if you do extremely well on a test, it’s a subject you’re interested in and passionate about, and you’ll continue taking these classes in college. So keep that in mind too.


One of the most important factors to consider when deciding how many SAT subject tests to take is the timing. You are allowed to take up to 3 subject tests on each SAT subject test date. You should note that these are not offered at the same time as the SAT test–you cannot take the SAT and SAT subject tests on the same day.

Here are a few tips in regards to timing:

  • Try to take the subject test as soon after completion of the subject/class as possible. If this means spreading out subject tests over the course of your high school career, that’s okay.
  • If you are studying for an AP exam covering similar content, taking the subject test would be a great way to capitalize on your efforts.
  • Unless you’re taking a class over the summer, try to avoid fall test dates. Chances are the material won’t be as fresh in your mind, which may hurt your score.

Try to sit down and map out your standardized test schedule early on during your freshman or sophomore year. You don’t want to be taking everything your senior year–you’ll want time to have some fun.

On a similar note, you don’t want to be taking the ACT one month, SAT the next, and SAT subject tests two months after that. Don’t overwhelm yourself–plan ahead!

So, how many should I take?

The moral of the story is, the number of SAT subject tests you take should be dependent upon a few factors. There is no magical number.

Be sure to keep the following questions in mind:

  • How many do the schools you’re applying to require?
  • How many can you use to set your application apart from the rest?
  • Do you have the time to study for them, and are you willing to put in the effort?

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.