The SAT Subject Tests: A Guide

SAT Subject Tests

What are they?

The SAT Subject Tests are 1-hour long tests based on high school coursework. They’re intended to help students showcase their academic strengths. The College Board offers 20 different subject tests spanning 5 subject areas. Much like individual SAT sections, each subject test is scored on a scale from 200-800.

What are the options?


  • Mathematics Level 1: Assesses mathematics knowledge through the first 3 years of university-preparatory mathematics coursework.
  • Mathematics Level 2: Assesses mathematics knowledge through the first 3 years of university-preparatory mathematics coursework and precalculus.


  • Biology E/M (Ecological/Molecular): Assesses understanding of general biology. Biology E focuses on biological communities, populations, and energy flow. Biology M focuses on biochemistry, cell structure, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis.
  • Chemistry: Covers the major concepts of chemistry and the ability to apply these concepts in problem-solving scenarios.
  • Physics: Assesses understanding of the major concepts of physics and the ability to apply these principles to solve specific problems.


  • Literature: Covers poetry, prose, and drama in English and American literature from the Renaissance to the present.
  • US History: Covers political, economic, social, intellectual, and cultural history, as well as foreign policy from pre-Columbian history to the present.
  • World History: Covers the development of major world cultures, from ancient times to the present, in all historical fields: political and diplomatic, intellectual and cultural, and social and economic .


  • Assesses the ability to read by testing vocabulary use, language structure, and comprehension of a variety of texts.
  • The following languages are offered: French, German, Italian, Latin, Spanish, Modern Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Why you should take them

Some colleges and universities require you to take SAT Subject Tests, but most only require you to take the main reasoning test. Usually, more competitive programs require taking 2 or 3 Subject Tests relevant to your major. Check the admissions requirements of the colleges you’re considering to see if you need to take any Subject Tests.

Taking a few Subject Tests is also a good way to spotlight your strengths and skills. Plus, it’s another way you can make your application package stand out to admission officers.

When you should take them

Subject Tests should be taken once you’ve completed classes that the College Board recommends. As these courses are usually AP classes, most students will take the tests in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year.

The College Board administers the Subject Tests 6 times every year, with the next test dates occurring in May and June. There’s still time to sign up for May if you’re ready.

If you still need to put in some time prepping, dive into some of the official guides offered by the College Board.