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Image from Pexels

After you’ve taken the SAT, you expect to be done with everything. But if you read the fine print closely, most colleges will want you to take subject tests to supplement your SAT score. This also applies to some colleges that allow you to take the ACT, but they’ll want you to take the SAT subject tests as well.

Subject tests can be kind of awkward. You’re allowed to take up to three in one sitting, which is the most cost-efficient method. The first one is a base price, and the additional one or two that you choose to take cost less than the first one. However, based on your test-taking strategy, taking three might not always be the best idea. You’re also not allowed to take any subject tests on the same day that you take the SAT. With all of these rules and requirements, when exactly is the best time to take your SAT subject tests? The answer to that, like many of the answers to life’s questions, is… it depends.

1. May or June: After you take your AP exams

A lot of my friends chose to take their SAT subject tests in subjects that corresponded to the AP class subjects they had just completed. Because of this, May and June are two of the most popular times to take SAT subject tests. (I took most of mine in June.) This is extremely beneficial because the knowledge from your AP courses is fresh in your minds. Most people take them at the end of junior year, since that’s when students usually take the greatest AP course load before the college admissions process begins.

In my experience, most people prefer June to May, since the subject tests usually take place the first weekend of May, a time when most students still haven’t buckled down and crammed in information for the AP exams. However, if you’re one of those people who are ahead of the curve and ready to go for your AP exam by the beginning of May, definitely take your subject test sooner rather than later. If you choose to take the June subject tests, you run the risk of forgetting some of the information you learned.

Even if the class you took was not an AP course, but you felt like you learned a lot in the course, ask your teacher to help you prepare for the subject test. See if they can give you some extra material to look at, which can be really beneficial. In addition, you don’t have to take the subject test your junior year. If you took an AP course sophomore year, that would be fine as well.

A helpful tip: Get a subject test study book. Preparing for your AP exam doesn’t guarantee you are preparing sufficiently for the subject tests. Sometimes subject tests will cover certain areas that the AP exams do not cover. Although that didn’t happen to me, something similar did. My teacher glossed over the later decades of U.S. history, so when I saw those problems, let’s just say I was less than excited.

2. Not May or June: After you finish an AP course

Although I personally think May and June are the best times to take subject tests, I realize that it’s not a hard and fast rule. Some schools offer AP courses that only last for one semester. If you know you’re not going to take the AP exam in May, it would be best to take the subject test in January, before all the knowledge disappears from your brain (which theoretically should not happen).
Again, this applies to non-AP courses. If you do choose to go this route, you should get a subject test study book as well.

3. November, December and June: Special exemptions to the rule

To add further complications, not all subject tests are administered on each test date. (I guess not all subject tests were created equal?)

For example, World History, Spanish and French are offered frequently but not always. However, what to really focus on are the exams that are only offered once or twice a year. All of the subject tests that are a language with a listening component are only offered in November. These languages are French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. If you miss this test, French, German and Spanish are still offered, so you might still be able to take those. However, for the other languages, November is the only time any test related to those languages is administered. It is important to keep in mind that the listening component is beneficial because it demonstrates that you are able to understand an important facet of language: listening. I would recommend, if the option exists, you should always try to take a language test with listening.

German (without listening), Modern Hebrew and Italian are the tests only offered in June. If you’re interested in taking these tests, make sure you take them in your junior year, since by the time senior year rolls around, it will be too late. Finally, Latin’s the only one that’s offered twice a year in December and June. You’ll have a bit more flexibility with that one, but you should always plan accordingly.



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the author

Benjamin Din is a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where he is studying journalism and the mathematical methods in the social sciences (what does that even mean?). When he's not writing for The Prospect, he can be found on Twitter as he tries to build his social media presence. For more information, check out his website.

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