When You Should Take SAT Subject Tests

When's the best time to take the SAT subject tests?

Source: pixabay user PeteLinforth.

The SAT subject tests are designed to make you stand out during the college application and admission processes.

Set yourself up for success. Start early in your high school career and make a 4-year test schedule. You’ll want to avoid taking the ACT, SAT, and SAT subject tests all within one semester. So make yourself a timeline.

Helpful Hints

  • The SAT subject tests are usually offered 6 times each school year
  • Subject test, test dates usually coincide with the SAT test dates
  • You cannot take the SAT and SAT subject tests on the same day
  • Up to 3 subject tests can be taken at a time
  • Try to take the subject tests as close to the end of the class (same subject) as possible so the material is fresh in your mind

So what does this look like in a schedule?

Freshman Year – Create a Calendar of SAT Subject Tests

Your freshman year of high school should be spent getting used to your new environment. While you’re making new friends and taking fun classes, start exploring subjects you are interested in.

Get on College Board’s website and check out the list of SAT subject tests. Start thinking about your strengths and the tests you might take in a few years.

Sophomore Year – Start Taking SAT Subject Tests

By sophomore year you’ve gotten used to your new school and you’re a bit more comfortable. You also have more freedom when it comes to choosing classes. This is usually the time you start to get a feel for what you’re really good at, and what you don’t want to spend forever studying.

If you are taking a class during your sophomore year that coincides with one of the subject tests (e.g., world history) it is in your best interest to take that test this year. Think of it this way, especially if you’re taking AP World History, you can take the test this year and get it over with while the material is still fresh in your mind, or you can spend countless hours studying for it again in a few years. Which would you prefer?

Junior Year – Balance SAT Subject Tests with SAT/ACT/PSAT

The spring of your junior year should be considered “peak standardized testing time”. This is usually when you take the SAT, SAT subject tests, and the ACT (if taking both tests). Keep in mind that you may also have the PSAT/NMSQT in your junior year. That’s a lot of testing–especially when you add in state tests.

This is the year that’s crucial for planning. Make sure you are giving yourself enough time to study, but also to recover and refresh between tests. The ACT and SAT aren’t offered on the same weekends, so if you don’t plan ahead, you could be stuck taking them back to back, or one very soon after the other.

Decide which subject tests you want to take. Consider your interests, strengths, and timeline. Don’t worry, you can still take them your senior year too, but you might be a bit busier. If you need help determining how many to take check out one of my other articles here.

Again, you cannot take the SAT and SAT subject tests on the same test day. If you’re planning on doing both in the spring check the dates on College Board’s registration website.

Senior Year – Evaluate and Possibly Re-Take SAT Subject Tests

Your senior year will be crazy–it will also fly by.

Your last year of high school should be a lot of work, but save yourself time for fun too.

Use this year to retake any that you’ve previously taken, but have now completed additional courses for (e.g., language tests). You can also take any other tests you think you could blow out of the water.

Don’t overdo it! If you’re planning on taking the SAT or ACT again, space them out. You have time, you’ll get everything done.

As you’re finishing up the process and working on applications and college planning, make sure you’re aware of the college/university application requirements. Some schools require a certain number of subject tests, others require specific subjects. You don’t want to get all the way to the end only to realize you missed something.

So that was your brief overview of what your timeline should look like for the SAT subject tests. As you can see, although 4 years seems like a long time, there really isn’t much wiggle room once you consider other testing, planning time, and class schedules.

The sooner you start planning your test schedule, the better off (and probably less stressed) you’ll be.

If you have any questions set up a meeting with your school counselor. They’re there to help you, and they know their stuff.

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