Good question.

Not all schools require these subject-based tests or AP exams and who wants to sit down for an extra exam?

Well, think about this a bit more before you make your final registration decisions for next year.  The most important part of your college applications is how your academic transcript presents your case.  You want to get the best grades you can — of course. But don’t forget that the rigor of your courses is important as well.  Taking honors and AP courses (if your high school offers these) is a great way of showing colleges that you are a serious student and that you want to challenge yourself by taking courses that require you to work hard.

AP Courses and AP Exams: Not only do high scores on these exams offer students college credit for only the cost of the exam (3-6 credits for under $100 — credit offered varies by college), but also having these courses on your transcript shows you have selected some of the most challenging courses offered at your high school. Think of  AP courses as boot camp for college because the Admissions Officers at your first choice school will do the same. Additionally, some schools have changed their admissions policies regarding standardized testing.  Test-flexible policies allow applicants to submit these AP exam scores in place of SAT or ACT scores as part of their admissions application .

Schools with this policy include:

University of Rochester test flexible policy

New York University standardized testing policy

Brandeis University

SAT Subject tests: These are less well known than AP exams.  Plan to take subject tests in May or June of the year you are taking that subject.  These exams are 60 minutes each and you can take up to three in one session.  While not all schools require these exams your scores will be included on your SAT report to schools.  This is a good way to shine in a particular subject.  For more information click here:  SAT Subject tests.

Remember high school is a great time to explore your academic interests and see what you love and where you excel. While you don’t need to take honors, AP, or SAT subject tests in all academic areas, find what you enjoy and try at least one to three more rigorous courses every year.