College Admissions: SAT Subject Tests, IB & AP Course Exams

By on October 16, 2018

College application season can be an anxious time for you, your family and just about everyone involved in the college planning process. You’ve worked hard and done your best, but how do you know you’ve got the academic experience that colleges are looking for?

As December of your senior year approaches, there are a few tasks you will want to consider, such as completing applications, getting organized for the financial aid process, and preparing for extra standardized test to help you stand out as a candidate.

Here is a list of End of Year College Planning Tasks:

  • Register for the SAT II Subject Tests (various subjects offered).
  • Register for Spring AP and/or IB exams in subjects you are currently studying for college credit (see more below).
  • Finalize and submit your college applications (essay and forms, financial aid information may be sent after January 1).
  • Remind your teachers or employers about Letters of Recommendation before the holidays.
  • Attend financial aid information fair and prepare document for the FAFSA.
  • Sign up for a PIN to complete your FAFSA online.
  • Urge your parents to file their taxes as soon as possible after January 1 to be eligible for “first-come, first-served” financial aid and scholarship rewards.
  • Stay focused on maintaining and increasing your GPA.

Beyond these tasks, you will want to take a close looks at your spring class schedule to prepare for SAT subject tests and Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) course exams to demonstrate your academic interests and even earn some credits to save you tuition money.

SAT Subject Tests Show Individual Interests and Strong Points

The SAT II Subject Tests are the only national admissions tests where you, the student, get to choose the subjects which showcase your academic interests and strengths. The exams reflect high school level curricula as an indications of the student’s preparedness for college-level courses. And any student can take the SAT subject tests regardless of AP or IB enrollment.

Some universities may require or recommend SAT Subject Tests scores in addition to the SAT or ACT. And other colleges may use the subject test scores to place you in appropriate course, fulfill basic requirements or even receive credit for introductory-level courses once you arrive on campus.

If you are interested in particular majors or programs of study, taking one or more of the SAT Subject Tests can provide you with an excellent opportunity to complement your admission credentials and inform your intended colleges about your ability to keep up with studies and provide a more in-depth picture of your academic background and interests. Choose one or more of the following SAT Subject Tests to highlight your academic strengths:

  • U.S. History
  • Literature
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics Levels 1 and 2
  • Languages with Listening (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Korean)
  • Biology

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Tests

AP and IB exams assess your college-level knowledge, skills and abilities, learned in the advanced courses you are enrolled in at school. As a result, the topics covered on SAT Subject Tests may differ from those covered on AP or IB Exams which typically cover college-level information in greater depth. And unfortunately, not all students have an opportunity to take AP or IB courses at their high school, which is why the SAT Subject Tests are offered universally.

Advanced Placement Courses and Exams for College Credit

Taking rigorous AP courses in high school tells the colleges and universities to which you are applying that you have what it takes to succeed in an undergraduate environment. Admissions boards will see that you are challenging yourself with college-level coursework and skills to be prepared for meeting these expectations. And your exam scores can be consistently weighed against students from other high schools, districts, states and countries.

Students sitting for AP Exams will receive a score ranging from 1 to 5. Most colleges will only accept scores of 5 (extremely well qualified) to 3 (qualified) to receive college credit. If you do pass the exams and earn passing grades in the AP course students may pass nearly a years worth of college classes, saving their families thousands of dollars in college tuition, fees and expenses. A little hard work in high school can transform what once seemed an unaffordable experience into something within reach.

IB Courses and Exams for College Credit on a Global Scale

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Program is an intense high school curriculum with an emphasis on intercultural understanding and enrichment. It offers both a complete diploma and a shorter certificate program. Similar to the AP Program, enrollment in an IB courses demonstrates to colleges that you are prepared for college-level academics. Additionally, diploma students gain the additional advantage of becoming eligible to study at universities all over the world (which recognize the IB Program).

Along with the required Theory of Knowledge (ToK) course, volunteer hours and a 4,000-word essay, students take classes in the following subject areas to meet local and state graduation requirements and to prepare for the IB exams. The diploma culminates in six college-level subject exams from the following subjects (anything less than six results in awarding the IB certificate):

  1. Language and literature
  2. Language acquisition
  3. Individuals and societies
  4. Experimental sciences
  5. Mathematics
  6. Computer science
  7. Arts

Most colleges only give college credit to students who attain at least a score of 5 out of 7 points on an exam for a higher-level course. And while many American colleges recognize the academic value provided by the IB program, each has its own policies about granting credit. Be sure to check with your school counselors and university advisors to receive proper credit.

Demonstrate Your Strengths to Colleges Through Rigorous Coursework and Exams

There is more to college planning than taking tests and filling out applications. Take the time to enroll in a few AP or IB courses to receive college credit and help save money on tuition. Be sure to register and sit for the SAT II Subject Tests to help schools place you in the proper programs, language courses, etc.. And make a strong push for academic success in your senior year.

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About Terri A. Kamoto

Senior writer for FSN - Terri is a former financial analyst dedicated to making personal finances, budgeting, investment and insurance advice accessible, up to date and easy to understand. It is hard to find professional advice written in a language someone without a financial background can understand. Terri helps companies synthesize industry lingo and expertise into clear and informative content which builds smarter, financially successful individuals. You can find Terri on !

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