Why Take SAT II Tests?

Natalie Thompson
Natalie Thompson

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When you prepare for college, most students know they have to take the ACT or SAT test. If you like taking tests, good for you! If that’s the case, then adding more tests, like AP or IB exams, seems like an exciting challenge. Why take more tests? Because tests are a great way to show you learned something in school. It is important to note, not everyone is a great test-taker, so colleges do weigh other factors in your college application. If you are considering the SAT II tests, read on.

An important update

Your college prep schedule is likely busy. While 2020 heralded some important changes, we think it’s important to discuss the SAT II tests in the event they return to relevance in the future. You can read more about the most current testing situation here. In the meantime, feel free to review this information if you are interested!

The SAT II details

College Board, the creators of the SAT and AP tests, also offer SAT II tests which are subject tests that can show your academic strengths as part of your college application. There are subject tests in English, Math, Science, History, and Foreign Language.

Why should you consider taking a subject test?

Can help your SAT score if it is lower: Most colleges want to see your grades and your SAT score to help create an academic picture. But some students, even with preparation, can have a lower SAT score. Doing well on an SAT II test reveals that you can do very well in specific areas. Of course, you need to get a fairly high score on a subject test to prove your test taking skills.

Shows you work hard in school: You should take subject tests in classes you do well in to show your ability to learn and master the subject. If for example, science is a real strength for you, you can take a subject test at the end of the course. Subject tests are usually offered 6 times throughout the year and fit most high school curriculum.

Strongly suggested by some select schools: When planning your high school schedule freshman or sophomore year, you should decide if you would like to attend a more select college. Some select colleges would like you to take subject tests to demonstrate your strengths in your desired area of study. You can take subject tests as early as your Freshman year.

Good way to show strengths if you don’t have AP/IB exams: It is important to demonstrate in your application that you have completed high school classes and can do well in college courses. If you opted to take honors courses instead of AP classes, or had another focus during high school, a subject test can show you take school seriously.


Limit SAT II tests to 3. Taking tests is like taking vitamins. You can take a few to strengthen you and show that you want to do well but too many can be overwhelming. Subject tests do not equal the weight of a high score on an SAT or AP exam. Doing well on them can create a fuller picture on your application, but would not be the deciding factor for admissions.

Luckily, you can visit the College Board website for SAT II FAQs, information about the content of the exams, and sample questions.

In conclusion

No matter the situation, don’t forget that you can ask for help. You can also ask your college counselor to guide you in selecting the best exams to take and plan an exam schedule. Empowerly can help!

Questions? Let us know!