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TAG | Subject tests



SAT IIs- When to take them

Question: Should my freshman son be taking the SAT II in Biology? He is just finishing up Bio 1.
Answer: No, he is not ready.
(Unless he is ready to learn Bio II before the test.)

The above question is one of many I get regarding the timing of SAT IIs.
You submit an SAT II score to show a college admissions board that you have mastered a subject. Some colleges require certain SAT II scores to determine your placement. In either case, mastery is rarely achieved in a beginning level course. This is not to say that an avid student might not score well, but that is usually with significant preparation beyond the basic material learned in class. SAT IIs are best taken after an advance course.
Here is a suggested timetable. Take the subject test as soon after completion of the course suggested. With all classes, take honors or AP if possible.

Foreign Languages: Language level 4
Sciences: Biology 2, Chemistry 2, Physics 2
Literature: AP Literature, English 3
Math Ic: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II
Math IIc: Pre-Calculus, or Algebra 3 with Trigonometry
US History: US History 2 or US I and US Government
World History: World History

As with anything you do, you know yourself best, so if you truly feel you are ready, go ahead and take the test. Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the test information and format first by checking out the free test questions on And remember, studying for these tests is a good idea- they are a way to show colleges what you know and a great score will definitely be an advantage when acceptance decisions are made.
All the best!

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Subject test: Maybe, maybe not.

The Subject tests are SAT IIs (“SAT 2s”), which test on specific topics such as math, languages, literature, biology, and more. No subject tests are given in March, and language with listening is only given on specific dates and requires special equipment. Visit to see the exact schedule and take a free subject test. Many colleges do not require an SAT II.

Step 1: Know
Either your intended area of study or how selective your college choice may be. . .
Visit the website of a college you are interested in and click on admissions and then application process. Some may have it directly on that page, others may have you open a requirement grid because they request different tests for different majors. For instance, Cornell wants 1 and sometimes 2 subject tests; an engineering applicant needs one in Math and one in a science, whereas a Hotel Administration applicant needs only one in math.

Step 2: Plan
Recall that SAT IIs are administered on the same dates as SAT I (the one you take to apply to college), so you cannot take SAT I and SATII on the same day. Each SAT II takes 1 hour and you can take up to 3 on the same test date- that is a lot of focus and a lot of studying beforehand! If you are preparing for any AP tests, the best time to take an SAT II is May, the same week as the AP tests. Take the SAT II in the same subjects as your AP tests so you don’t have to double up your studying- Truly the best use of your time and effort. That means you can take the SAT I in June, and focus all your energy on that after AP’s are over and before exams bog you down. Or maybe October (last opportunity for early decision) or November of senior year is a better time so you can study over the summer.

Step 3: Prepare
Study! It is the best way to do well on a subject test. Get to know the format so when you get in there, you can show what you know.

All the best!

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