Difference between SAT and SAT Subject Tests

Key difference: The key difference between the two tests is that SAT Reasoning Test is based on three subjects that are mathematics, critical reading and writing section, whereas the SAT Subject Tests focuses only on one subject such as US History, Physics or any other individual subject.

SAT and SAT subject tests are both standardized tests that are intended for high school students to measure their readiness for college level work. These tests are very helpful for the college admissions officers and authorities to measure a student’s abilities and skills, and to make a fair and informed decision in admitting the students in their colleges.

The term SAT stands for ‘Scholastic Assessment Tests’. It is a standard test that is conducted for all students to take admission in different under-graduate programs in different colleges and universities. It was started in the year 1926 by a private and non-profiting college board.

SAT is conducted 8 times a year. It is a paper based test that only tests a student’s analyzing and problem solving skills that he or she learned in the school. It tests them on their ability to use that learned knowledge and apply it on the paper. In other words, it is an aptitude test, which measures a student’s critical thinking skills that he or she may need for the academic success in the college. The knowledge or skills tested are:

  • Writing skills
  • Critical reading and
  • Mathematics skills

SAT II, on the other hand, is usually taken to improve a student's credentials for admission to colleges in the United States. It is an hour long, content based test that allows students to showcase their achievement in the specific subject areas in which he or she excels. It is a test that propagates the student’s achievements and interests, hence it is popularly known as ‘achievement tests’.

These specific SAT Subject Tests allow students to differentiate themselves in the admissions process by sending a strong message regarding their readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. It helps in providing a complete picture of a student’s academic background and interests. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas:

  • English
  • History
  • Languages
  • Mathematics and
  • Science

The difference between the two exams is that the SAT tests student’s critical thinking skills through a reading, writing and solving math problems section, all theses that are necessary to succeed in college. While, the SAT Subject Test measure a student’s knowledge in particular subject areas, which is closely related to the high school curriculum and their ability to apply that knowledge. Though, there are some highly selective colleges that require applicants to SAT Subject Tests in addition to their SAT Exam. Also, there are some schools that consider the ACT as an alternative to both the SAT and some SAT Subject tests.

So, one should always check on the colleges official website before applying, to find out which test is required. Then, after taking these tests and based on one’s performance he or she can be admitted to a suitable college.

Comparison between SAT and SAT Subject Tests:



SAT Subject Tests


It is termed as ‘Scholastic Assessment Tests’

It is termed as ‘Scholastic Assessment Tests’ based on single subject.

Focus on

It focuses on three main sections.

It focuses only on one section.


It is a three hour exam.

It is a one hour exam.

Considered as

It is an aptitude test.

It is an achievement test.


The emphasis is on the test taking skills of the students.

The emphasis is on the vocabulary and the knowledge of the particular subject area.


It helps the students in finding the right college, in order to peruse their dreams.

It can help to enhance a student’s application, and their knowledge gained outside the classroom, and a potential out side of introductory courses.

Conducted on

It is conducted 8 times a year.

  • It is conducted 6 times a year, and can be taken depending on an individual’s college plans (make sure to check the dates).
  • It can be taken on the same day as SAT.

Based on

It is based on:

  • Analyzing skills
  • Problem solving skills

It is based on the subjects related to school.  

The 5 main subjects are:

  • English
  • History
  • Languages
  • Mathematics and
  • Science

It is based on 20 different subjects.

Test sections

There are three test sections:

  • Writing section
  • Verbal section
  • Mathematics section

There are three test sections:

  • Writing section
  • Mathematics section
  • Science or Language of choice.


The score is based out of 2400, and anything above 600 is ideal.

The score is based out of 2400, and anything above 600 is ideal.

Image Courtesy: businessweek.com, sat.collegeboard.org

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thank you for your great explanation

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