SAT Subject Tests vs. AP Tests - What’s the difference?

AP Tests and SAT subject tests similar in a lot of ways, and both tests give students advantages and can help students in different ways during the college admission process.  Certain colleges require SAT subject tests (see previous blog post for more in-depth SAT II info), and many other recommend, or will consider, subject tests as part of a student's application.  AP tests are taken in conjunction with specific AP courses in schools. 

AP Tests

  • Used to earn college credit

  • Correspond with a specific AP class/curriculum offered in school

  • The tests may be taken independently of the class, but is designed to be taken after the class

  • Students who score a 3-5 may earn college credit once scores are submitted - more selective schools accept mostly 4s and 5s for credit

  • Tests can also be used to of intro classes in certain subjects (think languages, sciences)

  • AP courses and tests are not explicitly required by colleges - they are unofficially encouraged because of the rigor of the curriculum and the academic stamina those classes represent on a transcript

SAT II Subject Tests

  • Required by more selective schools in tandem with ACT/SAT scores, etc.

  • All multiple choice- no essays included!

  • Act much like a final exam for a class, rather than being tied to a school-specific class like APs, subject tests are taken on their own to demonstrate mastery in a subject.

  • A few colleges use subject tests to stand in for placement exams (to place in a higher level course instead of introductory level courses)



Which AP classes align with which subject tests?

  • AP Literature = SAT Literature

  • AP US History = SAT US History

  • AP World History = SAT World History

  • Honors IM3/Honors PreCalc/AP Calc = Math II

  • AP Biology = SAT Biology

  • AP Chemistry = SAT Chemistry

  • AP Physics 1 & AP Physics 2 = SAT Physics

  • AP Spanish = both Spanish + with Listening

  • AP French = both French + with Listening


AP Tests...

  • Range from 2-3 hours (but most are closer to 3 hours long)

  • Have 2 sections: multiple choice and free response

  • Are only offered ONCE A YEAR (in May), students should take corresponding AP exams at the end of the year they took the AP class in school

  • Can be taken at end of any year in high school - colleges will consider students' final transcript before deciding on placement and leveling for incoming freshmen

SAT Subject Tests...

  • Are 1-hour multiple choice tests

  • Are ONLY multiple choice

  • Are offered on 6 dates (aligned with the regular SAT tests)

  • Students will want to take all SAT subject tests (that they would like to submit as part of college applications) by November of their senior year, otherwise schools may not receive student scores in time to be considered as part of an application

How well do the AP tests correlate with the SAT Subject Tests? 

AP tests and SAT Subject Test Prep.jpg
SAT Math 2, SAT Biology, SAT Chemistry, SAT Physics, and SAT US History Subject Tests Prep
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