Should a student take the SAT Subject tests?
Many junior and senior high school students are still confronted with the dilemma of whether they should take the SAT Subject Tests, in addition to the SAT Reasoning test or ACT. For juniors and seniors, this can add pressure to an already stressful schedule. Many are already taking a number of AP and honor classes, studying for the SAT and ACT, and are committed to extracurricular activities.
There are 20 multiple choice tests on varied subjects, which at one time were known as Achievement tests. Whereas, the SAT Reasoning test is thought to demonstrate aptitude, the SAT Subject Tests are a test of knowledge. These tests are one hour tests and a top score is an 800. Beginning in March 2009, test takers have been given the Score Choice option. A list of subject tests and available dates can be found on the website www.collegeboard.com/testing.
The UC’s and CSU’s have gone to a SAT Subject tests optional policy. However, they are still recommended by UCLA, Cal, UCSD, UCSB and UC Irvine. In a time when college admission is so competitive, strong scores can enhance your application and make you stand out. If a student feels confident on a particular subject, they should take the Subject Test and if the score is strong they should submit it with their application. Private and out of state schools vary on their SAT Subject test requirements. SAT Subject tests are required by some (2 or 3), recommended, or unnecessary. Many selective colleges recommend taking 2 Subject tests and a few require three.
A student can take these tests at any time during high school. A student should consider taking the test while the information is fresh in their mind. For instance, if a student took AP Biology in 10th grade and received an A in the course, it would be wise to consider taking that SAT Subject in the spring of 10th grade while the material is current.
Are you wondering why some colleges still require the SAT Subject tests and what information they might garner from it that’s not available in their high school record or other standardized scores? Many colleges still believe that those scores can reveal three things. It can tell them how strong the high school is that the student attends. It can also reveal how competent the teachers are and how well the student has mastered the subject. In other words, in a subjective application process, it can act as an equalizer.
There have been a number of arguments for doing away with these tests. Some colleges feel that they are not an accurate predictor of undergraduate performance. There is also thought to be a strong relationship between the amount of preparation and score. This would lead one to believe that coaching can have a substantial influence on the score, giving wealthier students a distinct advantage, as they can afford more tutoring. Therefore, if these tests are eliminated we should see more ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in colleges. While high scores may not necessarily get you admitted to a college, low scores can keep you out. It’s best to thoroughly research the schools you are applying to and find out if SAT Subject tests are required and how many. Then, plan ahead, start early and pace yourself. It’s best to space them out over time so you don’t have to take all of them at once.