Language exams look great on college applications, particularly if you get a high score. Doing well on the language subject tests can set you apart from other applicants because language instruction is not often emphasized in schools across the country. If you are enrolled in a strong language program or have a penchant for foreign languages, you should absoutely consider taking one the subject tests.Before you register for the test, start by diagnosing your linguistic strengths and weaknesses to make sure that you are equipped to do well on the test! You can do this by taking a practice test or practice section.
Once you've decided that an SAT subject test is for you, there are 2 ways to think about the timing of the exam:
1) Will you be taking a more advanced language course next year? If so, waiting until after you’ve moved up a level in your target language makes sense. Another year of coursework will only better prepare you for the exam.
2) Are you already fluent in your target language? If yes, take the test as soon as possible! Challenge yourself and take another foreign language exam next year. This will really showcase your skills as a “linguist” on your college application.
Once you embark on standardized test preparation, remember that these language tests anticipate a broad grasp of vocabulary and usage, knowledge of basic idioms, and a strong command of grammar and syntax. Language tests do not typically emphasize oral ability (note: some of the Advanced Placements test have a spoken component).
If you decide to sign up for a foreign language subject test, there are a few key things you should start doing right away:
1) Master advanced grammatical tenses and practice conjugation (for romance languages). Sadly, there's no way around doing verb drills to get tough tenses down. Find a study buddy or work with a french tutor...spanish tutor...italian tutor....to fine-tune those nitty gritty conjugations.
2) Build a comprehensive vocabulary list by reviewing your class notes, textbooks, and readings to compile all the words that have popped up in your coursework. You can also find pre-made flashcards in many test prep books (but the act of writing the word down on a card is a valuable study aid in of itself...).
3) Strengthen your reading comprehension and analytical reasoning skills by setting up a reading plan in your target language. Find a local newspaper or browse for foreign language articles online.