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Using SAT Subject Tests

SAT Subject Tests are high-school-level, content-based tests that allow students to demonstrate readiness to take college-level classes in specific subjects, independent of any specific curriculum or instructional style. Get more details about the tests.

The tests can help colleges and universities attract prospects, meet admission goals, and more effectively advise and place incoming students.


Colleges and universities can use SAT Subject Tests to attract a diverse college-aspiring population and to more effectively identify students who may be interested in specific majors or areas of concentration.

Some facts about SAT Subject Test takers:

  • Students who take SAT Subject Tests score about 100 points higher on each section of the SAT and also score nearly one point higher on AP Exams in matched subject areas.1
  • More than 50 percent of U.S. domestic test-takers are minority students.
  • Nearly 20 percent of test-takers are international, from more than 170 countries.
  • More than 50 percent of students take the test before beginning their senior year.
  • Initial findings of a College Board study show that students who took an SAT Subject Test in mathematics or science were nearly five times more likely to declare a major in a STEM subject area than students who took SAT Subject Tests in non-mathematics or non-science areas.2

SAT Subject Test takers are now included in College Board Search.


SAT Subject Test scores can provide insight beyond grades, predict college achievement, and assess what is learned in high school.

  • Forty-eight percent of SAT takers report a high school grade point average of A- or above.3 SAT Subject Tests help admission officers contextualize student grades and better distinguish each student’s level of achievement in specific subject areas.
  • NACAC’s Report of the Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission (2008) advocated for broader use of SAT Subject Tests in college admission because of their close link with subject matter covered in high school courses.


  • More than 180 U.S. colleges and universities use SAT Subject Test performance for course placement or to grant credit for certain courses.4
  • Many institutions allow students to use SAT Subject Tests to fulfill subject-based competency requirements for admission.
  • Colleges and universities also use Subject Test scores to anticipate the remediation needs of matriculating students.

How Subject Tests Are Developed

  • Test development committees made up of K–12 and higher education faculty, representing a wide range of educational backgrounds and schools, help create SAT Subject Tests.
  • Each SAT Subject Test question goes through a thorough test development process over a period of about two years in order to ensure reliability and fairness to all students.
  • Curriculum surveys, most recently conducted in 2010, indicate that SAT Subject Tests assess not only what is being taught in high school but also what college faculty expect students to know in order to be prepared for college-level courses in specific subject areas.


1, 2. Michael Chajewski and Andrew Wiley, SAT Subject Test Participation as a Predictor of College Student Choice of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics Majors (The College Board).
3. 2015 College Bound Seniors Report
4. Annual Survey of Colleges 2015