SAT Subject Tests vs. AP Exams: A Comparison


As students navigate the landscape of college admissions, standardized testing plays a pivotal role. Two prominent options are the SAT Subject Tests and Advanced Placement (AP) Exams. In this article, we'll explore the key differences between SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams, helping students make informed decisions about which assessments to take and when.

 Purpose and Scope:

1. SAT Subject Tests:

   - Purpose: SAT Subject Tests are hour-long exams that evaluate a student's proficiency in specific subjects. They are designed to showcase a student's knowledge and expertise in particular areas of study.

   - Scope: There are 20 different SAT Subject Tests, covering subjects such as Math, Science, English, History, and Foreign Languages. Students can choose which tests to take based on their strengths and the requirements of the colleges they are interested in.

2. AP Exams:

   - Purpose: AP Exams assess a student's understanding of college-level material taught in Advanced Placement courses. These exams are comprehensive and cover a full year's worth of coursework in a specific subject.

   - Scope: There are over 30 AP Exams available, covering a wide range of subjects including Math, Science, English, History, and World Languages. AP Exams are typically associated with corresponding AP courses, but students can also choose to self-study for an exam.

 Exam Format:

1. SAT Subject Tests:

   - Format: SAT Subject Tests are multiple-choice exams, and some language tests include a listening component. They are scored on a scale of 200 to 800 for each subject.

2. AP Exams:

   - Format: AP Exams vary in format but generally include a combination of multiple-choice questions and free-response questions. They are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.

 Timing and Scheduling:

1. SAT Subject Tests:

   - Timing: SAT Subject Tests are offered on specific test dates throughout the academic year, and students can take up to three tests on a single test date.

   - Scheduling: Students can choose which subject tests to take on a given test date based on their preparation and strengths.

2. AP Exams:

   - Timing: AP Exams are administered in May each year, and each exam has a specific date and time set by the College Board.

   - Scheduling: Students enrolled in AP courses take the corresponding exams at the nd of the academic year. Those who are self-studying must adhere to the official exam schedule.

 College Admissions:

1. SAT Subject Tests:

   - Role in Admissions: While not all colleges require SAT Subject Tests, some highly selective institutions recommend or require them. They can showcase a student's expertise in specific subjects.

2. AP Exams:

   - Role in Admissions: AP Exams are widely recognized by colleges as indicators of a student's ability to handle rigorous, college-level coursework. Many colleges offer credit or advanced placement based on AP Exam scores.


1. SAT Subject Tests:

   - Preparation Materials: The College Board provides official study guides and sample questions for SAT Subject Tests. Additionally, there are numerous third-party resources available for preparation.

2. AP Exams:

   - Preparation Materials: The College Board provides a wealth of resources for AP Exam preparation, including official course outlines, sample questions, and past exams. Many students also use textbooks and review guides specific to their AP courses.


1. SAT Subject Tests:

   - Cost: There is a fee for each SAT Subject Test taken, and fee waivers are available for eligible students.

2. AP Exams:

   - Cost: The cost of each AP Exam is determined by the College Board, with fee reduction options available for students with financial need.


In summary, while both SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams assess a student's knowledge in specific subjects, they serve different purposes in the college admissions process. SAT Subject Tests offer flexibility in subject selection and timing, while AP Exams are comprehensive assessments tied to specific AP courses. Students should carefully consider the requirements and recommendations of their target colleges and choose the exams that align with their strengths and academic goals. Ultimately, a strategic approach to standardized testing can contribute significantly to a well-rounded college application.