What Are the SAT Subject Tests?


Many students who are trying to get into elite colleges may be required to take one or two SAT subject tests.  Some schools “strongly advise” you to take one - meaning, you should take it if you’re serious about joining their university. You may be wondering, “What are the SAT subject tests?” Let's get right into it.  

The SAT subjects are one-hour tests that focus on specific academic subjects.  All four major academic disciplines -Science, Math, History and English - offer SAT subject tests. Many languages like French and Spanish also have a subject test for those proficient in a second language. 

Here’s a list of all the major SAT subject tests:

  • Literature: Future English majors may be required to take the Literature SAT subject test. Students will be assessed on their reading and critical analysis skills. They are expected to identify meaning, form, figurative language, tone and narrative voice amongst other topics. 
  • U.S. History: This subject test evaluates the students' understanding of the United States history from pre-Columbus to the present! For those history buffs, this is a perfect way to show off your knowledge! 
  • World History: The World History SAT subject test assesses a student's understanding of the key major events that has shaped our society. Everything from early human communities to global change and challenges will be covered on the exam.
  • Level 1 Math: Topics like numbers and operations, geometric measurements, algebraic functions and data analysis can be expected on the level 1 math test. 
  • Level 2: This test is intended for serious math students only! In addition to the topics covered in level 1 math, students can expect to see trigonometry and pre-calculus problems.
  • Biology-Ecological: The Bio-E exam tests the students’ knowledge of biological communities and other ecological principles. Topics like plant diversity, evolution, food relationships, and ecosystems will be covered in the Bio-E SAT subject test. 
  • Biology-Molecular: If ecology isn’t your thing, fear not! The Biology-M SAT subject test assesses your understanding of cellular structures, biological compounds, and biochemistry amongst other topics. 
  • Chemistry: The Chemistry SAT subject test can be difficult for those who don’t excel in chemistry. The test will ask questions regarding structure and states of matter, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, and reaction types. There may even be a few lab questions thrown in too!
  • Physics: In my opinion, this is the toughest SAT subject test.  Major topics on the test include magnetism, waves, and mechanics. There may be questions on other miscellaneous physics topics sprinkled in. 

Remember, there are language specific tests too! If you’re proficient in a second language, go for it! If you do well on the exam, colleges may even waive certain language requirements. 

As a SAT instructor who offers private tutoring in NYC, I deal with a lot of pre-college students. I advise them to play to their strengths. If they are good at math, take the math SAT subject test. Many students believe the more the merrier-this is not the case. Having a better score on one test is more beneficial than scoring decently on three! 

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