What Is the SAT Subject Test?

Instructor: Laura Menard
The SAT Subject Tests are designed to test your academic abilities in specific subjects. Learn about the Subject Tests that are offered and how you can prepare for them.

About the SAT Subject Tests

The College Board offers 20 individual SAT Subject Tests in the areas of English, history, languages, mathematics and science. High school juniors and seniors will want to consider taking Subject Tests in areas in which they excel or in which they might wish to major in college. Some colleges may require the Subject Tests for various reasons, such as placement purposes. The Subject Tests are 60 minutes each and will assess your knowledge of the individual topics.

The tests will cover those topics commonly taught in high school. Because high schools may have varying curricula, you may find some questions on topics that you have not learned. Below, you'll find brief descriptions of the SAT Subject Tests and helpful resources to get you prepared for test day.

English

The literature test evaluates your overall understanding of literary terminology and concepts through its approximately 60 multiple-choice questions. Questions focus mainly on English and American prose and poetry from the Renaissance through the 20th century. You can prepare for this exam with the SAT Literature Subject Test Study Guide.

History

The U.S. history test requires answering 90 multiple-choice questions that will test your knowledge in historical concepts and analysis. The majority of questions focus on political and social history, with the bulk of it based on U.S. history after 1790. Use the SAT US History Subject Test Study Guide to learn about Pre-Columbian history to the present.

The world history test includes 95 multiple-choice questions that cover the chronology of historical events and world geography. Learn about the major world events you'll need to know for this exam with the SAT World History Subject Test Study Guide.

Languages

SAT language tests are offered as traditional reading tests or as language with listening tests. You should have at least two to four years of preparation in the language you are choosing to take.

The reading tests require you to read passages in the test language and then answer multiple-choice questions. The listening tests have both a reading section (40 minutes) and a listening section (20 minutes) where you listen to a spoken passage in the test language and answer multiple-choice questions.

Language reading tests are available in French, German, Spanish, Modern Hebrew, Italian and Latin.

Language with listening tests are available in French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

Mathematics

There are two SAT math tests, each with 50 multiple-choice questions. You can use a calculator when taking these tests.

Math level 1 covers algebra and geometry, but some statistics and number operations are included. Learn about what is covered on this test by studying the SAT Mathematics 1 Subject Test Study Guide.

Math level 2 has some overlap with the level 1 test, but covers more advanced algebra and trigonometry equations and functions. This test is best for students who have done well in trigonometry and pre-calculus. You can use the SAT Mathematics 2 Subject Test Study Guide to prepare for the Math level 2 exam.

Sciences

Science Subject Tests include physics, chemistry and biology.

Biology tests are available in molecular biology (Biology-M) and ecological biology (Biology-E). Each test is comprised of 80 multiple-choice questions, 60 of which are common concepts and principles to both. The remaining 20 questions are specialized to each particular section. The SAT Biology Subject Test Study Guide can help you get ready for both of these tests.

The chemistry test has 85 multiple-choice questions. You should feel comfortable with concepts of chemistry and application of principles. You are provided a copy of the periodic table for this test. The SAT Chemistry Subject Test Study Guide helps you examine the topics of structure and states of matter which are covered by the majority of the questions.

The physics test includes 75 multiple-choice questions dealing mostly with mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and waves and optics. Learn more about these topics with the SAT Physics Subject Test Study Guide.

Preparing for the Subject Tests

You have many options for preparing for an SAT Subject Test, including the comprehensive resources available on Study.com. As a member, you have access to video lessons, quizzes, and final exams. While you are studying, you may ask experienced instructors questions via the Dashboard.

Taking Subject Tests

You can take up to three different tests on one test date. However, just one listening test can be taken per testing day, and the same goes for the Biology Subject Tests. Most SAT Subject Tests are offered on the same dates that the regular SAT is offered, but you cannot take the Subject Tests on the same date you take the SAT. Subject Tests are offered in the following months:

  • May
  • June
  • August
  • October
  • November
  • December

There are a few Subject Tests that are only offered 1-3 times a year. For example, languages with listening tests are only offered in November, and the world history test is only offered in June, August, and December. You can check out the College Board website for exact date information.

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