There has been a lot of chatter on my discussion forums about the rising number of schools that are doing away with SAT Subject Tests.
What are these tests, you might ask? The College Board, the non-profit organization that offers the SAT, the standardized test for college admissions that you have likely heard of, also offers 20 multiple-choice tests in a variety of subjects. They were created to help students demonstrate their strengths in specific subject areas, like Chemistry, Physics, U.S. History and Spanish, to name a few. The issue is that these tests haven't been updated in over a decade and some schools are viewing them as an additional barrier to college enrollment.
Caltech is the latest school to announce a departure from using subject tests in the admissions process.
Each institution has a different policy regarding Subject Tests, so you need to take a look at each school you are considering to understand whether you should take a Subject Test and which one to take. Sometimes, only certain academic departments within the school require the Subject Test. Cornell did away with the Subject Test requirement for the College of Arts and Sciences, but left them optional for the College of Engineering.The language can be tricky, as some schools require the test and some schools recommend it - if you are applying for one of these highly selective institutions that recommends the test (think Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, etc.). it is probably wise to take the appropriate Subject Test so you are not at a disadvantage in the admissions process relative to your peers.
My best advice: once you know what schools and majors you are considering, reach out to the admissions office to clarify how the SAT Subject Test is used, if at all. The information isn't always easy to find on the school websites. If the Subject Test is not required, find out whether it will even be reviewed if submitted, or if it can help in the case of a deferred application.