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Test Prep 101: Why Students Should Align AP Exam and SAT Subject Test Prep

By Jonathan, IvyWise Master Tutor

Has anyone ever suggested that you should take an SAT Subject Test after preparing for its corresponding AP exam? If so, your first thought was probably “Why would you ever do this to yourself?” Your college prep is already challenging enough on top of homework, extracurriculars, and trying to have a life outside of school. Well, it turns out aligning AP exams and SAT Subject Tests is easier than you think and very beneficial to your college and test prep.

There’s A Lot of Content Overlap
While doing a lot of testing close together can be intimidating, it’s really not that hard as long as you create a test prep plan. First, the content overlap is going to be your biggest advantage. George Washington was the first president of the United States no matter whether you take the AP US History exam or the corresponding SAT Subject Test. Note, however, that you are likely to have to interpret historical evidence and analyze his presidency on the AP exam, as opposed to recalling straightforward facts about his presidency for the SAT Subject Test. You can see some of the content correlations across exams here. Due to the significant content overlap, this means that you can avoid doubling up on your preparation. You’re more or less “killing two birds with one stone.” This may be a con for the birds, but a pro for you.

The Content Will Be Fresh
Whether you’re self-studying for an AP exam in May or taking it at the end of your work in that course, you’ll be reviewing a lot of the same content for the AP exam, final exam for the course, and the corresponding SAT Subject Tests. Keep in mind though, while the tests may cover the same topics, they are ultimately different tests with different formats. As you may know when it comes to test taking, mastering the format of the test and the strategies targeted to that format is an important part of the preparation process. It might feel daunting at first to focus on two different exams with different sets of expectations, questions types, test lengths, and more, but reality is no matter when you take these tests, either close together or far apart, you’ll still have to tackle these differences. So why not do it while the content is still fresh?

SAT Subjects Tests May Be Required
Another thing to keep in mind is variability in college and university requirements and expectations surrounding these exams. Many colleges and universities either require or “strongly recommend” you submit SAT Subject Test scores as part of your college application. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to take every SAT Subject Test that aligns with your AP coursework. Instead, choose just one or two that align with your core interests and prepare for those. One of my students took the SAT Subject French, even though it wasn’t related to her core interest, simply because one of the colleges on her list required a third test, while the others on her list only required two, if any at all. It will be important to look into all of your prospective schools’ requirements here and be thoughtful about the tests you choose to take and how that impacts your overall applicant profile.

Creating an AP Exam and SAT Subject Test Prep Plan
If you decide to double up on your AP exam and SAT Subject Test prep, first examine your current coursework and determine which Subject Tests you want to take. If you’re a STEM student completing your AP Physics coursework and preparing for the AP exam, it’s a good idea to look into registering for the Physics Subject Test in the May or June sitting so that you’re taking them close together for maximum outcomes. Keep in mind, too, that different Subject Tests are offered on different dates, so plan ahead if you want to take a Subject Test that is only offered one or two times per year.

It’s also important when creating this test prep strategy to not overload yourself to the point of burning out from preparing for and taking so many tests all at once. Remember to be kind to yourself on the one hand, but to nonetheless be open to challenging yourself and striving to do your very best.

AP exams and SAT Subject Tests are an important part of the college admissions process. If you plan to take either of these tests, it’s important to know where you stand with your test prep, what areas you need to improve, and how to create an effective test prep strategy. At IvyWise, we work with students to provide comprehensive test prep and tutoring services for both AP exams, SAT Subject Tests, and more. We also provide academic support for students who may need additional help mastering their current coursework. For more information on our tutoring and test prep services, contact us today!

You can also download our free Academics and Test Prep Checklist here in order to see where you need to be in the testing process.