Let’s get this out of the way first: as of March 20, 2020, no American colleges or universities require all high school applicants to submit SAT Subject Test scores.
That was the date that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced they would no longer consider these tests in students’ applications. In eliminating this requirement, MIT followed in the footsteps of Tufts University, the Webb Institute, Harvey Mudd College, and many others.
Seems easy enough to ditch them entirely now, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. These single-subject standardized tests, known interchangeably as Subject Tests or SAT IIs and administered by the College Board, are still part of the college admissions landscape. Even though no universities require them for admission, a few still “recommend” them, while others use vague terms like “optional,” “considered,” and “flexible.”
What does all that mean? In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to interpret this language, as well as provide a complete list of schools where excellent SAT Subject Test scores will be an asset to your application.
Here you can find descriptions of each type of testing policy and what they mean for your college application. At the end, we’ve provided specific testing policies at a range of schools, to give you an idea of what these policies look like in practice.
Wait, I thought you said no schools still required these tests! While it’s true that no colleges require these tests of all applicants anymore, there are still a handful of unique programs that do. In this case, require means they will not consider your application if you do not submit SAT Subject Test Scores of the required number and subject.
|School Name||Program or Major||Tests Required|
|Boston University||BS/MD or BS/DD Program||Math Level 2 + Chemistry (and recommend foreign language)|
|Cooper Union||College of Engineering||Math Level 2 + Physics or Chemistry|
|George Washington University||BS/MD Program||Math Level 1 or 2 + Any Science|
|Northwestern University||HPME and ISP Programs||Math Level 2 + Chemistry|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||Accelerated Medicine Programs||Math Level 1 or 2 + Chemistry or Biology|
|Union College||Leadership in Medicine Program||Math Level 1 or 2 + Any Science|
|University of Miami||Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology||Math Level 1 or 2 + Any Science|
The majority of these programs are accelerated programs for high school students bound for medical school, which is why you see so many math and science subject tests listed above. For students who are not applying to these specific programs (or in the case of Cooper Union, engineering), these schools do not require the Subject Tests.
It’s also worth noting that some international schools want to see Subject Tests, too. McGill University requires two based on your intended major, and many UK universities will allow American high school students to use Subject Tests in place of A-Levels.
Lastly, keep in mind that some schools and programs that require SAT Subject Tests waive this requirement if students take the ACT (given the ACT exam’s more subject-oriented organization). This distinction is also true of the next category…
While very few colleges and universities require SAT subject tests, there are a good number that still recommend them. But what does that really mean?
For most schools, it means required unless you have a very good reason! That’s because admissions officers understand that attending multiple test dates, or engaging in sustained standardized test prep, can place an unnecessary financial and logistical burden on students who come from lower-income families or whose responsibilities mean taking multiple tests is truly impossible. Selective schools don’t want to turn such students away.
However, if financial hardship does not prevent you from taking these tests, schools that recommend SAT subject tests expect to see your scores. Not submitting Subject Test scores at such institutions is likely to damage your application chances. As of the 2020-2021 college application cycle, those schools are:
If you’re planning to apply to any of those schools, it makes sense to take two SAT Subject Tests. There are a few exceptions; Georgetown, for instance, recommends submitting three Subject Test scores. Meanwhile, Duke and Rice feel that students who take the ACT have already fulfilled the Subject Test recommendation, although submitting additional scores will not hurt applicants.
The majority of American colleges and universities have categorized SAT subject test scores as “optional” pieces of your college application. That means that if you submit them, perhaps to highlight particular areas of strength, they may be considered, but you will not be at a disadvantage if you opt not to take them or submit your scores.
This is one of the least common designations for SAT Subject Tests, but it does exist. There are a few schools, including New York University, whose testing policy allows students to submit three Subject Test scores in place of the SAT or ACT. This option isn’t right for everyone; however, if you struggle with the length and content of the full SAT or ACT but excel on the shorter Subject Tests, it’s worth knowing about.
In recent years, more and more schools are saying that they will not consider SAT Subject Test scores at all, even if a student chooses to submit them as part of his or her application. For instance, in 2019, the Cornell University School of Engineering announced that it would not consider SAT Subject Test scores in 2020 or 2021 admissions decisions.
Below, you can see a list of SAT Subject Test policies at a range of colleges and universities. An asterisk (*) indicates that there is an exception to the general testing policy.
In addition, please note that what you find below is these schools’ normal language about Subject Tests. With the ongoing coronavirus situation, some of these policies may have been changed, temporarily or permanently. Be sure to check school websites for the latest details.
|College or University||Testing Policy Category||SAT II Testing Policy|
|Princeton University||RECOMMENDED||We recommend, but do not require, the submission of two SAT Subject Tests, which often assist us in the evaluation process. We have no preference for the specific SAT Subject Tests applicants choose to take. However, if you apply for the Bachelor of Science in Engineering, we recommend that you take either mathematics Level I or II, and either physics or chemistry.|
|Harvard University||RECOMMENDED||While we recommend that you submit two SAT Subject Tests, you may apply without them if the cost of the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them.|
|Columbia University||OPTIONAL||SAT Subject Test and other proficiency exam scores are not required by Columbia, but we will accept your results if you choose to submit them in the testing section of your Common Application or Coalition Application. You will not be at a disadvantage should you choose not to take these optional tests or submit the scores to Columbia.|
|Yale University||RECOMMENDED||SAT Subject Tests are recommended but not required. Scores from SAT Subject Tests (like AP exams, IB exams, and AICE exams, see below) can help an applicant demonstrate specific areas of academic strength. Applicants who do not take SAT Subject Tests will not be disadvantaged in the application process.|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||NOT CONSIDERED||We think it would be unfair to consider scores only from those who have scored well and therefore choose to send them to us. They are neither recommended nor optional; they are simply not a part of our process anymore.|
|Stanford University||OPTIONAL||SAT Subject Tests are optional. Because SAT Subject Test scores can highlight your areas of strength, we welcome the self-reporting of these results in your application.|
|University of Chicago||OPTIONAL||If you choose to submit an SAT or ACT score, Subject Tests are truly optional, and not sending us Subject Test scores will not hurt your application.|
|University of Pennsylvania||RECOMMENDED||SAT Subject Tests are recommended but not required. Applicants who do not take SAT Subject Tests will not be at a disadvantage in the admissions process.|
|Northwestern University||OPTIONAL*||While SAT Subject Tests are optional for most undergraduate applicants, scores from SAT Subject Tests are required for applicants to the Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME), the Integrated Science Program (ISP) and applicants who have been homeschooled.|
|Duke University||RECOMMENDED||We strongly recommend that students who submit only the SAT also submit two subject test scores of their choice (with math recommended for Pratt).|
|Johns Hopkins University||OPTIONAL||Applicants have the option of submitting SAT Subject Tests in one or more areas of interest as a way to demonstrate an academic strength, but they are not required.|
|California Institute of Technology||NOT CONSIDERED||As of January 2020, Caltech has eliminated the requirement for applicants to submit two SAT Subject Tests. These sections will not be considered in the application review process.|
|Dartmouth College||RECOMMENDED||We recommend that you submit two SAT Subject Test scores to help us better understand your academic strengths. We encourage you take tests in the two subjects you like the most. If you submit more than two subject test scores, we will look at your two best scores. Alternately, if you do not submit subject test scores, it will not prevent your candidacy from receiving a full review by the Admissions Committee.|
|Brown University||OPTIONAL||Beginning with the Class of 2025, Brown will no longer recommend the submission of SAT Subject Tests. If submitted, Subject Tests will be considered as part of your application. Students who have not taken the Subject Tests will be at no disadvantage in Brown’s admission process.|
|Vanderbilt University||OPTIONAL||SAT Subject Tests are optional. If official scores are sent to Vanderbilt, they may be considered during the application review process. For students who enroll at Vanderbilt, some SAT Subject Test scores can be used to meet language proficiency requirements in the College of Arts and Science, and to meet mathematics requirements for some majors in Peabody College.|
|University of Notre Dame||OPTIONAL||SAT Subject Tests, AP tests, and IB tests are not required and are only used in the application process if scores enhance an application. They may also be used for credit and placement in the first-year program.|
|Rice University||RECOMMENDED||Recommended for all first-year applicants: two SAT Subject Tests in fields related to the proposed area of study. Applicants who do not take the SAT Subject Tests will not be disadvantaged in the review process.|
|Cornell University||OPTIONAL*||Subject test scores are optional at all undergraduate colleges, except for the School of Engineering, where they will not be considered.|
|Washington University in St. Louis||OPTIONAL||Washington University does not require SAT Subject Tests. However, if you do take them and submit your scores, we will only consider them if they strengthen your application.|
|University of California System||OPTIONAL*||While SAT subject tests are not required, some campuses recommend that freshman applicants interested in competitive majors take the tests to demonstrate subject proficiency. Remember, these are recommendations, not mandates. You will not be penalized for failing to take the SAT Subject Tests. On the other hand, submission of these test scores may add positively to the review of your application.|
|Williams College||NOT CONSIDERED||We don’t require the SAT II subject tests. Submission of these tests won’t affect your admission decision.|
|Amherst College||OPTIONAL||Amherst requires only the SAT or ACT.|
|Swarthmore College||OPTIONAL*||We do not require SAT Subject Tests, but we will consider these scores if you provide them. If you have indicated an interest in our engineering program, you are encouraged to provide the Math 2 Subject Test.|
|Wellesley College||OPTIONAL||If you would like to self-report optional standardized test scores (SAT Subject Tests, AP scores, or IB exam results) to demonstrate particular academic strengths, you may do so through your application’s score section.|
|Pomona College||NOT CONSIDERED||Advanced standing may be conferred by individual departments based on AP, IB or SAT Subject Test scores.|
|Bowdoin College||OPTIONAL||Applicants indicate on their applications whether they would like Bowdoin to review their standardized test results. Applicants also have the option to select some test types and not others for review (for example, a student might choose to include SAT Subject Test scores but not an SAT score).|
|Claremont McKenna College||OPTIONAL*||The Admission Committee does not require that you take the SAT Subject Tests. Homeschooled students, however, are required to submit scores from two exams. One of the scores submitted must be from a math Subject Test.|
|Middlebury College||FLEXIBLE||Students must submit either the SAT, the ACT, or three SAT Subject Tests in different academic disciplines (Math I and Math II, for example, do not qualify as two distinct Subject Tests).|
|Carleton College||OPTIONAL||Applicants may submit the results of their SAT subject tests. These tests are not required. These tests aid us in our assessment of student achievement across a wide variety of secondary school programs. SAT subject test results usually enhance your application and are rarely a negative factor.|
|Washington and Lee University||OPTIONAL||SAT Subject Tests are not required for the application.|
|Colby College||OPTIONAL||Colby is test optional. Students may choose whether to submit the results of their standardized test scores with their application for admission. Students choosing to submit SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Test scores may elect to self-report their standardized test scores on the application.|
|Haverford College||OPTIONAL||We do not require applicants to submit SAT Subject Tests.|
|Smith College||OPTIONAL||SAT II Subject Tests are optional for all applicants.|
|Hamilton College||FLEXIBLE||Hamilton applicants will have a variety of ways to meet our standardized test requirement. They include: the SAT (Essay optional); OR the ACT (Writing Section optional); OR three individual exams of your choice, selected from SAT sections, SAT subject tests, ACT writing, AP scores or IB final exams.|
|Vassar College||OPTIONAL||SAT Subject Tests are not required, and students opting not to send Subject Tests will not be penalized. However, SAT Subject Tests will be considered if submitted as part of a testing profile. Subject Tests may enhance an applicant’s credentials, particularly for applicants from non-traditional school backgrounds (homeschooled, non-graded schools, etc.).|
|Davidson College||OPTIONAL||If applicants have taken SAT Subject Tests, Davidson welcomes but does not require those scores.|
|Wesleyan University||OPTIONAL||Applicants have the option to select some score types and not others and will indicate on the Common Application which, if any, test results they would like to include as part of the application review. For example, a student might elect to include SAT subject tests, but not SAT or ACT.|
The trend in SAT Subject Tests is sloping precipitously downward. As recently as five years ago, many more schools either required or recommended these tests. While we can’t predict the future, it seems increasingly evident that these tests are no longer among the most important factors in the college admissions process.
In short, while SAT II Subject Tests can be a great way for you to show your strengths in a particular area, you also likely won’t be disadvantaged if you don’t have these scores.
Contact us to learn more about our admissions consulting services.