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Parental guidance: SAT II tests stick to the subjects

A file photo of a test-taker.

A file photo of a test-taker. Photo Credit: Alan Raia, 2006

What is the SAT II (officially called the SAT Subject Tests)?

Each one-hour SAT Subject Test measures achievement in a specific academic content area. Twenty different tests cover English, history, languages, math and science.

Most highly selective colleges require students to take at least two and as many as three SAT subject tests, says Maureen Moloughney, director of guidance for the Farmingdale School District. "You're talking the Ivies, the very highly selective colleges," Moloughney says. "If you're going to apply to a highly selective school and you haven't taken a subject test, your application is going to be incomplete."

Less competitive institutions may recommend but not require taking at least one; New York State schools, for instance, usually don't require any at all, Moloughney says.

Students can choose the subjects they are strongest in, though students applying to some specific majors within universities may be required specific subject tests, Moloughney says. For instance, students applying to a competitive engineering program will probably have to take a math and a science subject test such as chemistry, she says.

Students usually take the tests at the conclusion of whatever year they've had the class in that subject, even if it's freshman or sophomore year, as opposed to the SAT and ACT, which are taken during the later high school years, Moloughney says.

The tests are more challenging than the Regents exams, Moloughney says. Students should take a practice test first to see how they might score before deciding to take the actual exam, she recommends.

Do you have a Parental Guidance question? Email beth.whitehouse@newsday.com and follow her on Twitter @bethwhitehouse1.

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