Sophomores and juniors alike should take the Subject Tests for current history and science courses at the end of this school year — ideally in June, but May is also acceptable — when the material is still fresh as they prepare for finals. Even better if they’re preparing for the related AP exam, as well! Subjects like math, foreign language, and literature can be taken at any time of year, as students are continuously adding to their knowledge/comprehension of these subjects, but we advise not waiting until fall of senior year (if it can be avoided), as there is already so much stress during those months.
Why prepare for Subject Tests? Strong Subject Test scores reinforce strong grades or can make admissions officers more forgiving of weaker grades; for instance, getting a B in a class but scoring well on the Subject Test shows that you understand the material but perhaps had a tough teacher. And while only a select few colleges still require Subject Tests, quite a few recommend — and ALL still accept — them! Why prepare for AP exams? Strong AP scores not only tell colleges that you truly learned the material in your respective advanced classes, but they can also count for course credit once you get to college. Walking into freshman year with course credit gives you the opportunity to do one, if not all, of the following:
- Focus on the classes you WANT to take
- Take a lighter course load during challenging quarters/semesters
- Double major or add a minor (since you now have more room in your schedule)
- Graduate early!
So what now? Take diagnostic Subject Tests in mid- to late-March to determine how close you are to your goals and which tests you want to proceed with (if any); if you are doing as well as you’d hoped, great! You’re all set. If not, this leaves you time to learn the material and strategies necessary to increase your score. We recommend purchasing College Board’s Official Study Guide for ALL SAT Subject Tests, a book with one diagnostic test for each subject, in order to assess where you are.
As for AP exams, you should be taking practice exams in your AP class, which will give you a solid understanding of your preparedness. If not, we are always happy to recommend books and online sources for practice tests, but your teacher should be providing these on a fairly regular basis.