Our most recent group tour was at the University of Southern California (USC). We had a nice size group, a private tour, and an information session by the homeschool application reader, Mr. Clay Busia. The information session included not only the usual discussion of program rigor, extracurricular activities, and college readiness, but also homeschooling information. Specifically, at USC, homeschoolers are required to submit 3 SAT Subject Tests, including the SAT Math Level 2. I looked around the room and saw a number of confused faces, then asked the group if they knew about SAT Subject Tests. It was unanimous – “No.”
Most people know about the SAT and the ACT. These are test of high school reading, writing, and math, ability, but SAT Subject Tests are different.
SAT Subject Tests:
- Cover core subjects – literature, math, science, history, or foreign language.
- Test high school ability, not college ability like an advanced placement (AP) test.
- Are offered at most (but not all) SAT testing sessions, and a student can take up to three subjects in one session.
- Are each an hour long (with the exception of foreign language listening tests).
- Are entirely multiple choice.
For many colleges, SAT subject tests are required for homeschoolers. For example:
- Pomona College in Claremont, CA requires 4 subject tests.
- Claremont McKenna in Claremont, CA requires 2 subject tests.
- Emory University, in Atlanta, GA requires 3 subject tests including math.
- Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME requires 2 subject tests including math.
- The University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, CA requires 3 subject tests including Math Level 2
(It is always best to check with a college’s admissions counselor for updates or wavers, some will make exceptions.)
Many colleges require SAT subject tests for all applicants. Selective STEM schools such as Harvey Mudd, CalTech, and MIT typically require a math (usually level 2) and a science subject exam (physics, chemistry, or biology E/M). Several campses of the University of California recommend subject tests, although the exact test varies by campus. The College Board has compiled a list of schools that require, recommend, or consider subject tests. It is up to the applicant to check with each college for specific rules.
Additionally, California students who are applying to the University of California System can use SAT Subject Tests as one way replace A-G requirements. For California charter homeschoolers, this allows a student to take a non A-G path and still be eligible for the UCs or CSUs. Qualifying scores are minimal (yet obtaining a higher score is always a good idea).
SAT Subject Tests also offer a homeschool student the ability to show colleges that his or her grades are legitimate which can lead to a higher chance of admission and merit aid.
There are many options for showing course rigor besides the SAT Subject Tests such as AP Tests, certified AP classes, and dual enrollment, but it is important to know about subject tests early in the homeschool or independent study (charter homeschool) process.
As for our homeschool tour group, many of the students were young and just starting their high school adventure. There is time to add a few subject tests in along the way. My own son, a ninth grader, is ending his year with a Biology Subject Test and the Human Geography AP Exam. I hope they give him an admissions boost and help with merit aid (fingers crossed!).
More information on SAT subject tests can be found on the College Board website.