SAT II Subject Tests vs. AP Exams

Do you have a child who is a junior in high school? If so, they may be planning their schedule for the fall and deciding whether to take Advanced Placement class, how many to take, etc. They may also be starting to think about whether or not they should take the SAT II Subject Tests. While there are some similarities between the two, deciding which to take is something that will vary from child to child and depends on their strengths and interests.

What are the differences between SAT II Subject Tests and AP Exams?

To start off, there are a few format differences between the SAT II Subject Tests and AP Exams. Subject Tests are multiple choice exams that are scheduled for an hour. They are scored on a scale of 200 to 800. Students can select which subjects they would like to take the Subject Tests in meaning they can choose subjects they feel comfortable with and excel in. For a list of available Subject Tests, please click here.

The AP Exams include both multiple choice and essays and usually take several hours to complete. They are scored on a scale from 1-5. Most colleges will give students who score a 4 or 5 credit for that class, allowing them to skip it once they begin college.

How Do Students Prepare?

Students who decide to take SAT II Subject Tests will have to study on the course material on their own. It is recommended that students take the Subject Tests as soon as they finish the course in order to increase their chances of doing well.

In order to take an AP Exam, students must have taken that AP class throughout the school year. An AP class is considered a college level class and will encourage students to think analytically and apply information rather than simply memorizing it. In addition to the official exam, there will likely have been several other tests during the school year in addition to essays, projects, and required textbook reading.

Are SAT II Subject Tests or AP Exams required for College Admission?

The answer to this will vary depending on which colleges you are applying to. Although most do not require Subject Tests or AP Exams, some of the top colleges will require either, or both, in addition to the regular SATs. The best way to find out is to visit the college’s website or contact the office of admissions. Even if the colleges do not require it, taking them can provide you with a competitive edge and demonstrate your strengths in certain subject areas. The Dean of Admission at Harvard University stated that it was “found that the best predictors [of grades] at Harvard are Advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate Exams, closely followed by the College Board subject tests.”

Which one is “easier”?

Most people find that the AP tests are more difficult due to the fact that it is intended for students who have been preparing for it at a college level. AP Exams are also longer but unlike SAT Subject tests, there is the possibility of earning college credit. In the end, the choice will depend on your needs and there is no wrong answer.


Amanda De Moraes

Boston Tutoring Services


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