Subject Tests cover a wide range of subjects and are more akin to A levels – while still, amazingly, being multiple choice. Each one lasts an hour and you can take up to three different subjects at the same sitting (but not on the same day that you take the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT). Most of the better US universities will require two of these, though many students will have three, just to show off.
The SAT Subject tests are more clear-cut than their A level equivalents, much shorter, and involve less preparation for Brits who are used to concentrating on one subject at a time.
Most students take the Subjects when they are at the peak of their knowledge of the subject (e.g. after an AS-level course). The exception to this plan is if you plan to take a Subject Test in one of your GCSE subjects and won’t be studying it at A-level; in this case you may want to take the SAT Subject Test soon after your GCSE course is done.
If your university requires you to take the Subject Tests, check with them to see how many and if there are required subjects you must sit (or if you have free choice in what to take, which is more common).
The score range for each test is 200 to 800.
There are twenty Subject Tests including: Literature, US History, World History, Math Level 1, Math Level 2, Biology E/M, Chemistry, Physics, French, French with Listening, German, German with Listening, Spanish, Spanish with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening and Chinese with Listening.
Scheduling the SAT Subject tests requires a bit of advance planning. They're currently being offered in October, November, December, May and June - however, not all subjects are offered at each sitting. So do check the College Board website early in the process. Note: there is only one sitting of languages 'with listening' - in November.
Also, in some of these languages the standard will be set by US native speakers, and in others the curriculum may not be what you have covered in the UK – so do your homework.
The SAT Subject tests are based on curricula and subject matter taught in US schools, which can make it difficult to pin down suitable SAT Subject Tests. For example, an A level Biology syllabus may have a very different focus from that of US high school AP biology.
History presents even more of a problem – Tudors and Stuarts have little place even in the World History exam.
Your best bet may to go for the English literature exam and the Math 1, since there is some overlap with the material covered on the general SAT test. It is also useful to do a language exam (though the questions may be more grammatically based than you are used to).
Here’s another reason to consider a language Subject test: many universities have a foreign language requirement, and sometimes a high enough score on the Subject Tests will enable you to skip the university course. Taking French, Spanish, or even Latin can help you kill two birds with one stone.
Preparing for the tests
Before you choose your SAT Subject tests, you can see a summary of the content and some sample questions on collegeboard.org. Once you decide on a subject, the best way to prepare is by taking several sample tests. There are study guides and resource websites for each subject so you can work through these in your own time at home. You will find a multitude of them listed in the Reference Section and on Amazon.co.uk.