Testing that can catch you by surprise

So you thought your student was done with standardized testing. You were probably proud of yourself that you had finally mastered the differences between the SAT and the ACT, and then, surprise, up pops the very stealth-like SAT Subject Tests. What?

Yes, there’s another wrinkle in the testing area of the college application process. The good news is that it doesn’t apply to most applicants. Only students looking at the top-tier, most selective schools in the country need to be concerned with being required to take the SAT Subject Tests for admissions purposes. However, other students may want to take them to place out of introductory classes so they can get into higher level classes sooner. Juniors should be thinking about this now and plan to take these tests, if appropriate, at the end of their junior year.

Students need to carefully check the testing policies for each of the colleges they are considering. A variety of colleges and universities will allow students to submit the ACT (with Writing) in lieu of both the SAT and the SAT Subject tests. Here are several on that list: Amherst, Columbia, Duke, University of Pennsylvania and Yale.

Other schools, including Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Dartmouth, MIT and Princeton (among others) require the SAT Subject Tests regardless of whether the applicant takes the SAT or the ACT.

Then there is another longer list of colleges and universities that “strongly recommend” the SAT Subject Tests, including but not limited to: Georgetown, University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Davidson, Northwestern and Stanford.

Tests are offered in the following areas: English Literature, US History, World History, Math (Level 1 and Level 2), Biology (Ecological and Molecular), Chemistry, Physics and in the following languages: Chinese*, French*, German*, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese*, Korean*, Latin and Spanish*. (Tests with “*” offer a listening option.)

You may want to submit a strong SAT Subject Test even if the college doesn’t require it because it may tell them that you have a defined interest in a specific area.

All SAT Subject Tests are one-hour, multiple-choice tests. You can take, one, two or three tests on a single test day. When you sign up for the tests, you can choose which tests and except for the languages with listening tests, you can change tests on the test day.

There are free practice questions on the CollegeBoard website,

Test dates are the same as the SAT test dates, however not all tests are offered on all test dates, check the CollegeBoard website. Upcoming test dates and registration deadlines are:

• Oct. 11 and Sept. 12

• Nov. 8 and Oct. 9

• Dec. 6 and Nov. 6

• Jan. 24 and Dec. 29

• May 2 and April 6

• June 6 and May 8.