When Should You Take SAT Subject Tests?

Monday, August 14, 2017

sat and act test dates and registration deadlines.jpgSAT Subject Tests Are Sometimes an Application Requirement But They Can Also Help You Boost Your Applicant Profile

By Megan, IvyWise Tutoring Manager

The school year is coming, but what does that mean? Students will begin thinking about (or stressing about) when they should take their college placement exams. While students usually have a reasonable handle on when to start studying for the SAT or ACT, there seems to be confusion on whether or not to take SAT Subject Tests and when.

It’s no surprise to hear that college admissions is becoming increasingly more competitive. Because of this, it’s important for each student to make sure his or her application and test scores are demonstrating his or her proficiencies and interests.

You may be asking yourself – how do students demonstrate these interests? One way is to take SAT Subject Tests that align with students’ academic interests and intended major. SAT Subject Tests allow students to demonstrate proficiency in a certain subject area, and can give admissions officers a deeper understanding of a student’s academic goals. To see colleges and universities that use the Subject Tests, click here.

Prepping for Your SAT Subject Test

It’s important to work with your college counselor to decide upon a plan for best meeting your academic and college goals. At IvyWise, our counselors work with students to develop a course and testing schedule that meets the needs of the institutions to which you are applying. Once your counselor has told you which tests to prepare for and when, it’s time to get started with your tutoring! Tutoring for your subject tests are not something you can accomplish in a weekend, even though the exam itself only takes an hour.

Here is some information on when you should start pursuing your SAT Subject test preparation & testing:

Check Out the Subject Test Schedule Early

Each August the College Board releases the upcoming year’s testing schedule. Click here for the 2017-18 Subject Test Schedule. Once that schedule it released, you should be able to gauge when the best time to take an exam is based on your own academic schedule.

For instance, we have found that many of our students leave their subject tests until May of their junior year. This is something IvyWise Tutoring experts would advise against since it’s a rather hectic month. AP Exams are scheduled for the first two weeks of May, students may have sports matches, finals are just around the bend, and of course there are extracurricular activities, such as prom, that can deter students from performing their best.

Not All Tests Are Scheduled Equally

It’s important to plan ahead since not every test is given every month. If you are planning on taking Chinese with Listening in 2017-18, you need to know that it is only proctored during the November 4th test date. However, there are some exams, such as Math I, that are available during every sitting. These are the tests where you want to schedule when is most convenient for you after thorough preparation.

Freshmen & Sophomore Year – It’s Not Too Early

Depending on what grade level and what courses you have taken, it’s important to line up your SAT Subject Tests with your relevant coursework. With that being said, it’s not too early to start taking a subject test after your first year of high school! If you completed Biology or U.S. History freshmen or sophomore year, why wait two years to take the exam? You can begin studying for your SAT Subjects in conjunction with your progression in a course in order to effectively retain information, rather than learning the information and forgetting it before the exam.

Sophomore Into Junior Year

Rising juniors, this is your time to shine! With the SAT and ACT just around the corner, it’s important to start planning what subject tests you need to take for the colleges you are applying to. While certain schools don’t require subject tests, others could require several, making it important to not overload your junior year with preparing for the SAT or ACT in addition to two or three Subject Tests. At the start of your school year it’s important to take a practice test of each of the subject tests you are interested in sitting for. This gives you a preview of how much studying and how much time you need in order to reach your goal score!

Summer Enrichment Tutoring – It’s Your Friend!

As you approach junior year, you should be working with your tutors to prepare for the ACT or SAT, as well as prepare for your upcoming Subject Tests over the summer. If you are ahead of the game and began studying for your subject tests during the summer, by December you should feel confident sitting for your tests. Why December? It gives you the opportunity to complete your test prior to the end of year school rush where most students are testing for the SAT & ACT, taking AP Exams, and have begun final exam projects and studying.

Testing Your Summer After Junior Year

Alright, so maybe you didn’t do that well on the December SAT Subject Test, or perhaps you didn’t get your act together to test early. It’s okay – there is still some time for you! With your studies still fresh in your memory, it makes sense to take you Subject Test in June. For instance, if you just completed your AP Physics exam the month before, why not continue studying Physics for the following month and take your Physics Subject Test in June? Testing in June also gives you the opportunity to re-test at the end of August.


  • Don’t be afraid to start studying early!
  • You don’t need to wait until junior year to start taking your Subject Tests.
  • Be mindful of the testing schedule – not every test is offered every sitting.
  • Match up your SAT Subject Tests with your academic schedule.
  • Use your AP Exams to study for your SAT Subject Tests.

Make sure you’re on track with your tutoring and test prep by downloading our free Tutoring Checklist below!



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