Learn From My SAT Subject Test Mistakes
As a Program Director at Summit, I help families by guiding them through the testing process and developing an individualized testing plan. When I was a student going through this same process, I did not have a solid plan in place and it became an anxiety-ridden sprint to the end.
I was content with my SAT scores in the spring of my junior year and was happy to be done with testing. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that my first choice school required that I submit three SAT Subject Tests. What were SAT Subject Tests and why had I never heard of them?
SAT Subject Tests are supplemental admissions tests that focus on a particular area of study. The school I was applying to required submission of the SAT Writing Subject Test and two additional tests of my choosing. I was baffled that the existence of these tests had never come up anywhere before. Determined to check them off my list as quickly as possible, I set my sights on the rapidly approaching June test date. Times have changed since I
applied to schools back in 2002 and now the SAT Writing Subject Test no longer exists, as it was replaced by the optional SAT essay component.
Math had always been my best subject, so I knew I should take a Math test. There were two Math options available – Math I and Math II. Well, I figured I would take both, along with the Writing exam. I took all three tests in June and closed the book on testing.
I would have been in a much better place had I taken the U.S. History exam during my sophomore year around the same time as my final exam. It was fortunate that I was not applying to any undergraduate programs that required specific subject tests, such as engineering or pre-med programs. It would have been a complete disaster for me if I ended up having to take the Biology Subject Test three years after I had been in the course – yikes!
In the Fall of my senior year, I had started working on my college application when I realized that the school I was applying to had a disclaimer: Math I and Math II could not be submitted together. Oops! Total panic set in as I realized I needed to take another test in order to complete my application. Science and French were my weakest areas, leaving the field of history as the only viable option. It had been two years since I had taken U.S. History, but it seemed far less daunting than World History. I had been learning about U.S. history my whole life – how hard could it be?
I had anticipated a simple multiple-choice test asking me to put wars in chronological order and to identify the thirteen original colonies. Instead, I was rushing through 90 questions in 60 minutes that included photographs, political cartoons and foreign policy. Decoding the differences between Edward Bellamy, Sojourner Truth and Jane Addams was daunting. Who was Jane Addams*? I vaguely remembered learning about these historical figures, but it had been too long for me to recall. I would have been better able to pace myself and to anticipate the types of questions being asked if I had done my due diligence and looked into the specifics of the test ahead of time.
While there were quite a few factors that contributed to my SAT Subject Test missteps, they all ultimately stemmed from me being uninformed about the process. As the eldest child, my college application journey was new territory for my whole family. We had also skipped out on most information sessions at colleges in our haste to tour as many as we could. Had we attended more information sessions or presentations, I am confident we would have heard all about these Subject Tests sooner.
While the Subject Tests did not play to my advantages the way I would have liked them to, I did ultimately end up at the right school for me, abysmal U.S. History score and all. Oh and my freshman year dorm? The Jane Addams House.