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Do I Need to Take the Subject Tests?

Dear Mike:

Is taking the SAT enough, or should I also take Subject Tests? 



Dear Julie:

It all depends on the colleges you want to apply to.

The majority of colleges don’t require subject test scores, and some schools may not even consider scores even if you do submit them. However, almost all of the more selective schools will at least consider the scores, and many of them will recommend or even require them. For instance, every Ivy League school still (as of December 2012) requires two subject test scores.

As early as possibly, you should start thinking about the colleges you may apply to (before your junior year, if possible). Consider your GPA, the strength of your curriculum, the quality of your extracurricular activities, your college preferences (in terms of geography, school size, weather, specific departments/programs, etc.) and your 10th grade PSAT scores (if you took it), and try to make a realistic assessment of what kind of schools are likely to be on your list.

If your list is going to be stacked with the more/most selective schools, you’ll need to plan when to take the subject tests and which tests to take (both of which I’ll address in another post).

If you don’t have any desire to apply to or don’t have a shot at getting into those kinds of schools, then you probably shouldn’t waste any time or money on the subject tests!

Then again, to ensure you have all options on the table come the fall of your senior year when you’re applying to college, you may just want to plan to take subject tests no matter what.

A couple final notes:

As I always say: DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! Go DIRECTLY to a specific college’s website for information about subject test requirements; don’t trust anything you hear anywhere else. As is true of so many aspects of the college application process, there is much inaccurate information out there about subject tests (like the tenacious rumor that Georgetown still requires three subject tests…it just ain’t true, folks).

Also, keep in mind that, at some schools, if you take the ACT with Writing, you do not have to submit subject test scores.



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