It depends on your circumstances and where you are applying to.
Colleges have varying policies for subject tests, and some programs might even specify the specific subject tests they require (for example, the Integrated Science Program at Northwestern requires Math Level 2 and Chemistry Subject tests).
Most selective colleges ‘recommend’ submitting Subject test scores. Even if a college says SAT subject tests are ‘recommended’, you, as a well-informed applicant, should treat it as a requirement. For instance, Harvard recommends two subject tests and Swarthmore recommends having Math Level 2 for engineering applicants. University of California states that ‘while SAT subject tests are not required, some campuses recommend that freshman applicants interested in competitive majors take the tests to demonstrate subject proficiency’.
If the college states that they ‘consider’ SAT Subject Tests, this means the SAT Subject Test score is less important than when they are ‘recommended’. However, it would still be best to attempt these tests if you have the opportunity to do so. Since you have the option of submitting the scores, you can choose to do so if you have secured a high enough score. Colleges such as Brown, Dartmouth and Princeton fall under this category.
At test flexible institutions, SAT Subject Tests may be taken in lieu of other standardized tests such as the SAT/ACT. For instance, New York University has a flexible testing policy that allows students to submit three scores from the subscores on the SAT or ACT or from SAT Subject Test scores, AP exams, or IB exams. So, if you have not had the time to study for the SAT/ACT or secured a low score, then you might find it more convenient to opt for the SAT Subject tests as the content covered is similar to that of your high school curriculum.
Of course, some colleges are test blind when it comes to SAT Subject Tests. This means they do not consider these scores even if they are submitted. To name a few, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT and Tufts fall under this category.
Apart from familiarizing yourself with the varying requirements when it comes to SAT Subject tests for the schools you are interested in, the other factor that you need to consider is your own circumstances. The reasons listed in our blogpost regarding the relevance of standardized testing from an admissions consultant’s perspective is also applicable for SAT subject tests. For international students, this is especially true if you come from a curriculum that isn’t internationally recognized or a less well known school. Colleges prefer to have more information to better gauge these applicants’ academic strengths. Moreover, a weak score in your high school subjects might also be somewhat offsetted with a strong SAT Subject test score.
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