SAT World History Subject Test

September 21, 2020
By AdmissionSight
a group of high school students taking an exam

SAT World History Subject Test: Your Questions Answered

As you approach the end of your senior year of high school and look towards an exciting first year of college, you’re eagerly taking all of the tests and filling out all of the applications needed to achieve your academic goals.

You’ve expected to take more standard tests like the ACT and SAT, but you might have come across a group of tests known as the SAT Subject Tests that you might not have anticipated. These 20 additional SAT tests each cover a different subject – everything from science and math to English and history.

The SAT World History Subject Test is an excellent stepping stone for any student looking to major in the subject or even make a professional career out of it – especially if you have plans to attend a highly selective program.

Students concentrating on answering the exam.

Regardless of where you’re applying though, the SAT World History Subject Test can help tie together your application to catch the attention of admission officers. Whether you’re dead set on taking the test and need some studying tips or you’re still considering it, we have some information that can help make the process smoother.

At AdmissionSight, we have a proven track record of helping students gain admittance into the schools of their dreams. We’ve compiled answers to some of the most common questions about the SAT World History Subject Test to help you get the best score possible and further your academic goals.

What is the SAT World History Subject Test?

The SAT World History Subject Test is an optional exam that assesses a student’s familiarity with a variety of historical events and concepts on a worldwide scale. While there isn’t a defined requirement to complete the test, AdmissionSight strongly advises students who are interested in pursuing a major in history or a related subject to take the SAT World History Subject Test for the advantages that it provides.

To be sure, there are some highly selective programs that require incoming students to take this exam. Like all other SAT Subject Tests, the World History version is scored in a range from 200 to 800, and students have only one hour to complete it. With a total of 95 multiple choice questions, it’s one of the longest exams in the bunch. Unlike other Subject Tests, this one is only available to be taken in August, December, and June – half of the time that’s allotted to other exams, making it important to sign up quickly.

What are the benefits of taking the SAT World History Subject Test?

There’s no question that your free time is already diminishing with all of the tests, programs, and applications you have to deal with before heading off to college. With the idea of yet another test looming on the horizon, it’s clear why some students might be skeptical about whether the SAT World History Subject Test is worth their time or not. The team of college admission specialists at AdmissionSight have put together some benefits of taking the SAT World History Subject Test to help clear the air:

  • Highlight your interest in the field – While having some history courses and related extracurriculars in your application is a good indication that you’re interested in the field academically, it might not be good enough to drive the point home to admission officers who look at thousands of similar applications. Taking the SAT World History Subject Test clearly underscores your interest in majoring in the field and the work you’re willing to put forth to accomplish it.
  • Make your application stand out – No matter where you’re applying, you’ll be competing with a large number of fellow eager applicants for a limited number of spots. AdmissionSight believes in doing everything possible to help yourself stand out amongst the crowd, and completing this exam is a great way to have your application stand apart from the rest.
  • Some programs require it – We’ve acknowledged that there’s no overarching requirement to take the Subject Tests, but that doesn’t keep some individual programs or universities from making it a requirement for applicants. Clearly, it’s an advantage to finish the test if the college you’re applying to requests applicants to take the test.
  • Earn college credit – Just like AP-level courses, some colleges offer first-year students credit for their participation in the SAT World History Subject Test. This way, you can enter as a freshman with credits towards entry-level college courses without taking any classes!

What’s the difference between the SAT World History and US History Subject Tests?

A quick browse through the 20 different Subject Tests will reveal two individual tests dedicated to the discipline of history. The surface-level difference is quite clear: the US History test focuses more on historical events and related concepts as they pertain to the United States. On the other hand, the World History exam takes the same approach but to a worldwide context. The real pertinent differences lie in determining under which circumstances a student would opt for one over the other.

a group of students from a private school lined up while sitting and taking their exam

Generally speaking, if you’re considering a major that’s hyper-focused on the United States, either politically, socially, or specifically historically, then the US History Subject Test would be best for you.  Majors that take a larger, global perspective such as international affairs, foreign policy, world politics, etc. would lend themselves better towards the World History Subject Test.

What kind of skills are tested on the SAT World History Subject Test?

While the SAT World History Subject Test revolves significantly around the recollection of historical events, as you might expect, there are some other skills that are assessed as well. Knowing the types of knowledge that will be tested on this exam can make it significantly easier to prepare effectively.

When taking this Subject Test, students will need to be familiar with the terminology, geography, cause-and-effect relationships, and other information required to understand and dissect the meaning behind major historical events. In general, students will need to be able to grasp concepts that are at the center of historical analysis. This even includes the ability to understand some of the underlying concepts of other disciplines. Additionally, the SAT US History Subject Test will test a student’s ability to use their knowledge of history to interpret cartoons, charts, graphs, and maps for pertinent data.

A student's hand holding a pen and answering an answer sheet.

Taking the World History Subject Test allows you to demonstrate your interest in the subject and can differentiate you in the college admission process. The test covers all historical themes (political and diplomatic, intellectual and cultural, social and economic) from ancient times to the present, and is an excellent opportunity to showcase your knowledge and achievement in world history.

What should I have before taking the SAT World History Subject Test?

While AdmissionSight strongly advises students with an interest in a related major to take the SAT World History Subject Test, we also recommend having a few things beforehand in order to greatly increase the chances of performing well. Before taking the exam, you should have at least one year of comprehensive study focusing on world history at the college-prep level.

This could be any course that dives deep into the topic. It’s also advised that you have experience reading or studying historical events on your own time, outside of school. In addition, you should pay close attention to major trends within specific time periods within relevant textbooks. Timelines are an excellent source for this kind of information. Having this background will put you in a much better position to perform well on the test – reducing the chances that you’ll fail and have to take the test again.

 What does the SAT World History Subject Test Contain?

Chronological Material Percentage of the Test
Civilizations and Prehistory up until 500 CE 25%
500 until 1500 CE 20%
1500 until 1900 CE 25%
Post-1900 CE 20%
Cross-chronological 10%


Geographical Material Percentage of the Test
Comparative or global 25%
The Americas (not including  the United States) 10%
East Asia 10%
South and Southeast Asia 10%
Southwest Asia 10%
Africa 10%
Europe 25%

What resources can I use to prepare for the SAT World History Subject Test?

Now that you have the information you need to know what to prepare for, it’s time to look at resources that can help you with that process. Generally speaking, study sources for the SAT World History Subject Test can fall into two categories: official and unofficial. Both sources can be helpful, and each has its advantages. Unofficial content is typically available for free online while the official is usually costlier.

Young woman looking serious while studying.

However, the official sources also offer a better picture of what you’ll actually encounter on the real exam – easily making them the superior study tool if you had to choose. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose one or the other since AdmissionSight has put together a helpful amount of both.

Free online resources

Without spending so much as a dime, you can be on your way to studying for the SAT World History Subject Test with these sources.

Sample World History Questions Online 

While these aren’t official questions, they’re easy to access quickly and can give you a rough idea of what information will be covered on the test. This is a great place to start your research and gain a better understanding of what the SAT World History Subject Test is all about. Not to mention, it’s completely free!

Student Guide for the SAT Subject Tests

If you’re taking more than one Subject Test or still aren’t sure which one to choose, this free online resource is ideal for you. It’s a study guide with detailed information about each of the 20 different Subject Tests, including the World History one. It contains test-taking tips, official sample questions, detailed answers, and much more. You can find the answers to the World History section here.


If you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, you can get a more accurate depiction of what you’ll find on the real test

Official SAT Subject Test Study Guide in World History

This is the Holy Grail for students preparing exclusively for the SAT World History Subject Test. It’s an official guide, which means all of the sample questions offered are accurate representations of what you’ll find on the exact test – making them ideal. With this guide, you’ll get four complete World History Subject Tests that were all previously administered. It comes with detailed answers for all questions to make it easier to check your answers and correct mistakes. This is the most updated guide when it comes to test-taking tips and strategies for approaching the test as well.

Official Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests, Second Edition

All of the benefits from the previous study source is repeated in this official study guide but multiplied by 20. In other words, this studying resource gets you 20 full-length Subject Tests that were previously administered as well – one for each of the subjects covered, including World History.

As with the previous official study guide, you’re also provided with detailed answers, test-taking tips, strategies for preparing, the best times to take the test, and much more. This is the best source for students who are contemplating taking more than one subject test. Instead of splitting your resources and time between two separate sources, you get a comprehensive synthesis of them all in this edition. There’s a breakdown of each Subject Test, what topics are covered, what you can expect to find, and recommended coursework.

What else should I know about the SAT World History Subject Test?

While AdmissionSight doesn’t want to overwhelm you with loads of information, we do want you to be as prepared as possible to ace this exam. Keeping that in mind, there are a few more things you should know about the SAT World History Subject Test in order to prep successfully and efficiently.

Three students seriously taking the exam in their respected seats.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that the time periods on the World History Subject Test use the BCE and CE designations to denote Before Common Era and Common Era, respectively. This is in contrast to some history textbooks which still use the rather antiquated B.C. and A.D., or, “before Christ” and “anno Domini”. Be sure to take notice of these dates to not get tripped up when reading the dates.

Students also should take note that although all of the questions on the World History Subject Test are multiple-choice, they can be presented in different ways. Generally speaking, you’ll only see two different versions: either the question will be stand-alone or you’ll have a series of questions that correspond to tables, graphs, pictures, maps, or quotes.

When taking the test, don’t be worried if you come across some concepts that you didn’t cover in class. All students will face that problem since each high school has a slightly different curriculum. If you’re striving for that perfect 800 (which you should!), then you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to get every answer correct to get that score. We’ve helped countless students nail the exam despite being unfamiliar with a few of the topics covered.

AdmissionSight will help you prepare

AdmissionSight has a proven track record of helping students get into their dream colleges and programs. As one of the most successful college admission specialists in the country, we know what it takes to achieve even the most challenging academic goals. We’re dedicated to helping students choose the right academic path, improve their applications, and overall increase their chances of getting into whatever college they’ve dreamed about.

Whether you want help putting together your application, need advice when choosing relevant extracurriculars, or need help studying for the SAT World History Subject Test, we’re here for you. Our team of highly-qualified and experienced college admission specialists will help create a personalized plan to achieve your goals. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to learn more about what we do or want to request a particular service.


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