Approaching the SAT Subject Tests - Overview - SAT Literature Subject Test

SAT Literature Subject Test

Part I


Chapter 2

Approaching the SAT Subject Tests

Which Test(s) Should I Take? When?

Which test(s) should you take? The answer is simple:

• the tests that are required by the colleges to which you are applying

• the SAT Subject Tests that you will do well on

Some colleges have specific requirements; others do not. Again, start asking questions before you start taking tests. That means you should check with the school”s admissions office or website. College guidebooks, catalogs, and guidance counselors should also have this information. Once you find out which, if any, tests are required, part of your decision making is done.

The next step is to find out which of the tests will show your particular strengths. Generally (although, again, check with the colleges you want to apply to) colleges will require (or will “strongly suggest”) two SAT Subject Tests: usually Math Level 1 or 2 and something else.

Subject tests are given in the following areas: literature, U.S. history, world history, biology, chemistry, physics, math, and a variety of foreign languages.

An Offer You
Can”t Refuse

Some schools will
“strongly suggest” that
you take certain tests. It”s
wise to follow their
suggestions, as they are the
ones who will ultimately
be judging your
application for admission.

Your number one concern is to determine which tests you will score well on. Then you will want to think about the purposes for which the test will be used. If you plan to major in biology, you should probably take the biology test. If you”re a whiz at anything, take that test (no, there is no test in video games, or pancake eating, or marathon sleeping).

After you”ve checked your requirements and examined your needs, take a diagnostic test like the ones at the end of this book. See how you do, and with that in mind, determine whether the test is for you.

Try to take the tests as close as possible to the completion of the corresponding coursework you are taking. If you plan to take the SAT Chemistry Subject Test, for example, and you are currently taking high school chemistry, don”t postpone the test until next year. Take it while the information is still fresh. (Are you really going to study over the summer? Come on. Really?)

When Are the SAT Subject Tests Offered?

In general, you can take from one to three SAT Subject Tests per test date in October, November, December, January, May, and June at test sites across the country. Check the dates carefully, as not all subjects are offered at each administration. You”ll want to sit down with a calendar and plan, as there are limited dates and a lot of tests to take. For instance, you may want to retake the SATs on one of those days, or you may want to apply early to a school and have all your scores before your application is due in early fall. Register for the test early so you get the location you want.

SAT Subject Tests are offered in January, May, June, October, November, and December.

Should I Take the SAT Literature Subject Test?

The SAT Literature Subject Test will test your knowledge of basic literary terms and your ability to understand selected literary passages (prose, poetry, and drama) written in English. You don”t have to know specifics about literature originally written in English to do well on the test.

To a Point

Bring only a pencil: You
need NO outside
knowledge of literature!

If you”re unsure about whether you should take this test, start perusing college catalogs or contact the college(s) you will probably be applying to. Admissions offices should be able to tell you if this test is necessary.

If you feel confident about your ability to analyze and interpret literature, are a good reader, do well in English class, or plan to major in English in college, consider taking the SAT Literature Subject Test.


The easiest way to register is via the Internet (you”ll need a credit card). This site contains other useful information such as the test dates and fees. You can also register by mail (remember regular mail?) by picking up a registration form and Student Bulletin at your guidance counselor”s office. If you have any questions, call 866-756-7346. If you need to register for extended time or make special arrangements due to learning differences or disabilities, you can speak with a representative at the College Board by calling 609-771-7137. Start this process early, as the paperwork is fairly extensive.

On test day, you can take a single one-hour test and leave or take two or three different one-hour tests. You may have the scores sent to you, your school, and up to four colleges of your choice. Additional reports can be sent to additional colleges for, yup, additional money. The scores are usually posted online two weeks after the test date and are mailed two weeks later (although they can take up to six weeks to arrive).

What”s a Good Score?

Very few colleges release any data regarding how they use subject tests in admissions. Additionally, since such a wide range of subject tests is available, your score can only be compared with students who took the same subject test.

What”s important to schools is your percentile ranking (which will be sent along with your scores). This number tells colleges how you you scored relative to other test-takers who took the same test over a longer period of time (not just the day you took the test). In other words, a percentile rank of 60 means that 40 percent of test takers scored above you and 60 percent of test takers scored below you.
The mean on the SAT Literature Subject Test—and on most SAT Subject Tests—is 600.

Is Any Other Material Available for Practice?

The College Board publishes a book called Official Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests, which contains full-length tests for almost all of the SAT Subject Tests offered. You can also go to the College Board”s website, for more information and practice questions.

For book updates and more information, visit