The lesser-known SAT Subject Tests have seen better days.

With the dropping of this testing requirement by Harvey Mudd College (a California engineering college) in February 2020, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) remains the only school requiring the tests for application, and they have indicated they are revisiting this requirement. MIT has dropped the SAT Subject Tests!!!

No school requires these of all students. Read on about exceptions: 

What are They?

Really, just what they say they are.  These tests, formerly known as SAT II’s to your parents, are meant to measure achievement in high school courses.  There are 20 possible tests across 5 content areas.  They are different in nature to the SAT as well as different from AP tests, which measure college-level curriculum.  You’ll actually find Subject Tests to be more like your classroom tests.

Colleges that REQUIRE

Highly selective MIT where only 7% of students are accepted, for example, requires TWO SAT Subject Tests: one math and one science. While MIT is now the only school requiring these tests for all students, some schools still require these tests for only some majors. There are sometimes other requirements such as those pursuing engineering must have a math test as one of their two tests. For most students required to take two (or three) tests, they are typically tests of your choosing.

Colleges that RECOMMEND

It’s tempting for a student who feels over-tested, stressed by keeping up with rigorous classes and burdened by a mountain of college applications to forego testing when it’s not required.  Mistake. The pool of applicants is highly qualified and numerous. To set yourself apart from the crowd, LEAP highly suggests following through with anything that is recommended by the college. This could be the subject tests or interviews or more.  Lehigh falls into this category of schools.

Colleges that CONSIDER

For these schools, submitted SAT Subject Scores can only serve to enhance the application, and it will not be held against the student should the student not submit scores.

Our Advice

Colleges looking at SAT Subject Tests are typically highly selective. With that in mind, usually any score above 700 would enhance that student’s application. If you are applying to schools that recommend or consider SAT Subject Tests, we advise that you take 3 on any SAT date (with the exception of March when they aren’t offered), don’t automatically send scores to colleges before seeing how you perform then send scores 700+ at the time of application.

Score below 700? Withhold scores and perhaps try again.

At LEAP, we believe the best time to take these tests is May or June. Completing a rigorous high school curriculum should have any student well-prepped to maximize performance on these tests without any prep. Test drive the tests ahead of time with some free online practice questions on the SAT site.


Read the fine print.  Look for the exceptions! These can include home school students being required to take SAT Subject Tests when others are not and students pursuing particular degrees being required when others are not. I’m sure there are other exceptions, but these are the two most common.

The bottom-line is verify what is required with the college and if a school recommends or requires, just do it!