SAT Subject Tests are the little brothers of AP exams. They are a fraction of the price and workload but, for many, double the annoyance. According to College Board, 160 schools require or recommend Subject Test scores to be considered for admission. This is daunting for students applying to top-tier schools. However, rest assured, Subject Tests are not too formidable and may even be avoided in certain cases.
One of the benefits of the ACT is that many colleges do not require Subject Tests in lieu of this test. Brown University, for example, requires that first-year applicants send in either the regular SAT with two Subject Tests or the ACT test. Thus, taking just the ACT test may be the best option for some. It may even be the best decision based on finances. Of course, there is the fact that some people are better at the SAT than the ACT. However, for those who do perform better on the ACT, this testing loophole is reassuring to hear.
Despite general recommendations, students need to do their research regardless. A simple Google search during junior year will suffice. If a student is considering applying to competitive schools, he or she must be proactive when it comes to the college search process. All college-bound students know about taking the SAT or ACT, but not all are aware that many schools require or recommend the Subject Tests, as well. Make a chart, a list, or anything, really, to verify which colleges require the Subject Tests. You will thank yourself later (trust me).
Some schools love to be vague. They specifically say Subject Tests are "recommended" or "highly recommended," leaving already panicked high schooler in a deeper frenzy. Is an application disadvantaged if no Subject Test scores are available? A student who is applying to college needs to take personal responsibility for his or her self when it comes to deciding. Is the application excellent as it is? Can the application use an extra bump? Some schools specifically say that while scores are recommended, applicants will not be disadvantaged if Subject Tests are not taken. The University of Pennsylvania, for example, states that "applicants who do not take SAT Subject Tests will not be at a disadvantage in the admissions process" on their testing requirements page.
Despite the annoyance the tests may cause for some, Subject Tests are components of the college application process that can enhance a student's chances if he or she scores well. It is important to be educated on who needs to take them and who does not. And if a school is particularly indistinct, an applicant must do what he or she thinks is best for his or her application. Usually, that means taking the Subject Test, but students need not to fear a test that merely exists to help capitalize their strengths in specific topics. Don't forget to check out TCE's Tutoring Program as well to learn how you can score better.