Planning on taking an SAT Subject Test but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place. By reading through this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about how to study for the SAT Subject Tests.

In other words, this guide will answer the following questions:

  • What are the SAT Subject Tests?
  • How should you choose which SAT Subject Tests to take?
  • How should you study to maximize your SAT Subject Test score?

Also Read: How To Self-Study the SAT: A Comprehensive Guide

Everything you will learn in this guide is applicable to any of the 20 SAT Subject Tests that College Board offers.

What are the SAT Subject Tests?

Before you can start preparing for these exams, you will need to know some important information about the tests.

The purpose of taking an SAT Subject Test is to highlight your knowledge and skills in a particular subject area. Unlike college admissions tests like the ACT or the SAT, these tests will measure your capabilities in specific subjects to give the colleges you apply to a better understanding of your academic prowess.

Test Details:
  • Each exam is 1-hour long.
  • They consist of 50 to 95 multiple-choice questions (depending on the subject matter).
  • Your score will be on a scale of 200 to 800 points.
  • There are penalties for incorrect answers:
    • Correct answer = 1 point.
    • Wrong answer:
      • Five-choice questions = -1/4 point
      • Four-choice questions = -1/3 point
      • Three-choice questions = -1/2 point
    • Blank answer = 0 points
  • If your raw score is a fraction, it will be rounded to the nearest whole number. This means that if your score is 1/2 or less away to a greater whole number, it will be rounded up. If not, it will be rounded down.
When are the SAT Subject Tests offered?

SAT Subject Tests are offered on the same dates that the SAT is offered on, barring March. This means that you may take the tests in the following months:

  • May
  • June
  • August
  • October
  • November
  • December
How many SAT Subject Tests can you take at a time?

You can usually take up to 3 exams at a time. On test day, even if you have only paid for one exam, you may attempt up to 2 other tests. The fees for the exams you have not paid for will be automatically charged to your College Board account afterwards.

How should you choose which SAT Subject Test to take?

This is fairly self-explanatory but remember that you must first choose a test before you can start studying for it. Since the purpose of these tests are to test you in specific subject areas, College Boards splits its exams into 5 core categories. These categories then have subdivisions that total up to 20 tests. We’ve listed them below:






There are two main factors to consider before choosing which test(s) to take. The more important factor is what the universities that you are planning on applying to require and/or recommend.

There are a few scenarios that your chosen college may insist. Some universities will ask you to take an exam that is relevant to your major of choice. Others may ask you take one from Mathematics and the other from History or Literature. This is to check that you are academically well-rounded.

Moreover, some universities may only require one score while others may require 2 or 3. As a result, it is important to research about what exactly your schools of choice want from their prospective students. That way you can focus on the tests you actually need to take.

With that in mind, now consider what subject areas you enjoy or are proficient at. Really strong in mathematics? Make sure to take the Math 2 exam to showcase your genius!

If you are taking any AP classes, it might be helpful to take the associated Subject Test. You would have already studied for the AP Exam so you will need less preparation. This is why June is a popular test date for the SAT Subject Tests.

How should you study for the SAT Subject Tests?

How to Study for SAT Subject Tests: A Quick Guide

Once you have decided which test(s) you plan on taking, you can follow this general study plan and apply it to your own preparation.

Milestone 1: The Practice Test

Before you start studying, you need to assess your abilities and understanding of the material. The best way to do this is by taking a full-length practice test. Make sure to emulate the testing environment to get the best measure of your performance. Go ahead and score your practice exam. This will now be your benchmark score. Congratulate yourself! You can only improve from here on out.

Now, compare your score with the average scores of the colleges you are planning on applying to. You can finally find this information on their admissions page. You should be trying to aim for a higher score than the average score listed there.

However, if you are aiming for top-tier schools, you may want to examine the scores of the top 5% of the country. We’ll leave the link here for your perusal.

Milestone 2: Set Your Goal and Obtain Study Material

To have a clear idea of what you need to do, you must first set an end result you are hoping to achieve. If your benchmark score is close to your goal, then the amount of preparation you will need to put in between now and the test will probably be very low.

On the other hand, if your benchmark is much lower than the goal you have set, anticipate more studying to do. Seriously, you need to be realistic about your studying time before you actually start studying. Continue reading this guide to learn what you need to do effectively spend that time.

Furthermore, you will need to find study material for the test. This can be notes or study guides for subjects you have already taken a higher-level course in. You may also pair this with popular test prep books like Barron’s, Princeton Review, etc.

Don’t neglect The Official Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests. This book has quality questions for each test and a full-length practice test for each subject. It might be helpful in supplementing your other materials.

Milestone 3: Devise a Study Plan

We’re going to link to one of our essential SAT guides: How to Build an Effective SAT Study Plan 

While the above guide is specific to the SAT, most of the tips are applicable to SAT Subject Tests as well. Some essential takeaways:

  • Set specific times per day when you study! Stick to this schedule without fail. As we’ve said before, “Be realistic. Will you really commit the entirety of your weekend to studying when you spend the week working for the school and other commitments? It might be more feasible to spend an hour a day, two days a week. Remember, study smart not hard!”
  • Give yourself mini-goals to achieve incrementally through your study journey.
  • Incorporate as many practice tests as you can to build strategies that work for you.
  • Don’t forget to spend some time learning the tips and tricks that are associated with your chosen test.

Milestone 4: Let the Studying Begin!

Although notes and previous course material can be helpful in your overall understanding of concepts, it may not be the most effective manner to study. Your class may not have covered the same topics as tested on the SAT Subject Test. To sort through your notes may be time-consuming and result in a less than stellar end result.

We suggest that you use a prep book. These will be optimized for scoring high on the SAT Subject Test and will only cover the concepts tested on the test. It may also explain strategies to incorporate while taking the test.

However, in our opinion, if you really want that high score on your SAT Subject Test, hiring a tutor to guide you through the concepts will give the best end result. Talentnook provides high quality SAT prep tutors right in your neighborhood. You can find the best tutors to help you along your way here.

Good luck with your studying! We believe in you.