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Mandarin 3 and SAT II Chinese test

ocmomwith3ocmomwith3 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
my DS is taking Mandarin 3 and wants to take the SAT II Chinese test so she can show proficiency and not take Mandarin 4 next year so she can take some AP classes or other interesting classes - is that a good idea? She has attended Chinese school in an after school program and her Chinese is much better than what is current taught at her school so she isn't as challenged but want to show proficiency for college applications - thoughts?

Replies to: Mandarin 3 and SAT II Chinese test

  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,441 Senior Member
    Showing proficiency is good. If she is a heritage speaker, then she should have another World Language at school.
  • ocmomwith3ocmomwith3 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    No; we're not heritage speaker so hoping this will show good fluency - however we are Chinese and I think colleges will assume we are heritage speakers... how would one differientate here?
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 25,767 Super Moderator
    edited October 11
    want to show proficiency for college applications - thoughts?
    This is just a pet peeve of mine, but the Subject Test will not show "proficiency." For that matter the AP test will not show proficiency. The SAT Subject Tests test at the A2 level of CEFR and the AP tests at B1. And yes, I know Chinese is not a European language, but you can substitute the ACTFL guidelines to make the same point.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages

    The fact that the Subject Test questions are written in Pinyin and Bopomofo (as well as simplified and traditional characters) show how far way from testing proficiency it is. Also note that the Chinese Test is only given once a year - in November, so the clock is ticking.
    not take Mandarin 4 next year so she can take some AP classes or other interesting classes - is that a good idea?
    If she's targeting colleges that request/require 4 years of a foreign language, then no, it's not a good idea. She can certainly take the Subject Test as part of her application packet and/or use the scores to potentially place out of the college's foreign language graduation requirement. If she can take the AP exam, and score well, then she could get by without taking a 4th year of a language. Of course, if none of her colleges request 4 years, then it really does not matter.

    As far as "proving" proficiency to colleges - they won't care.
    Post edited by skieurope on
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,441 Senior Member
    The sad thing is, she would be assumed a heritage speaker.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 25,100 Senior Member
    She should take the test. Depending on where she ends up, the score could possibly exempt her from taking foreign language once in college.

    Whether the colleges think she's a heritage speaker or not will be up to them. She has no control over that, so she shouldn't waste any energy worrying about it.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 25,767 Super Moderator
    edited October 11
    The sad thing is, she would be assumed a heritage speaker.
    Whether the colleges think she's a heritage speaker or not will be up to them. She has no control over that, so she shouldn't waste any energy worrying about it.
    I have to agree with @happymomof1 on this one. I'm not sold that colleges will automatically assume that, or that it matters, particularly if the kid was not born and raised in China.

    Just because a kid speaks a language at home does not mean that they speak it correctly, and particularly for languages without a Roman alphabet, does not mean they can read or write it. Personally, I think it's more beneficial for a student to learn their heritage language correctly than to study a different language in HS simply based upon what AO's may assume. YMMV.
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,441 Senior Member
    If the whole point is to impress the adcom, it will not in OP's case for multiple reasons. Having a Chinese last name with proficient in Chinese is dime a dozen. To show proficiency of a foreign language does not really mean you are very fluent in it. One can typically do it by testing CLEP, AP, subject tests, and/or placement exam at a college. I agree that even with a good test score in any of these test are far from functional in real life though but many colleges would accept that as fulfilling the foreign language requirement.
    Here is an example: https://ls.berkeley.edu/foreign-language

  • 3girls3cats3girls3cats Registered User Posts: 1,819 Senior Member
    I caution you to look at the score distribution charts for Mandarin before having your daughter take the test. The kids who take this test are by and large are fluent speakers. In 2015, an 800 placed you in the 64th percentile. A 780 placed you in the 37th percentile. It's much, much more difficult to score well on this test as a non-native speaker than it is in any other language, save Korean. That same 800 score places you in an 80t-90th percentile group for any European language and even for Japanese. Personally I would not encourage it, especially at the Mandarin 3 level.
  • ocmomwith3ocmomwith3 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    edited October 12
    appreciate the feedback! She is really wanting to take the SAT II and score well enough to get the California Biliteracy Seal - however, some of the feedback is that regardless she should go ahead and take up to Mandarin 4. Do you think she needs to take Level 4; since her HS just started this program a few years ago, she is not learning as much as she did in her after school language classes when she was younger. It just seems a waste when she can take another class - please let me know your thoughts... still go through with Mandarin 4 even though her writing and comprehension is better than what the class teaches and just get that easy "A" since colleges prefer to see the 4 years?? She is aiming for Ivy or the more selective schools...Thanks!
  • coolweathercoolweather Registered User Posts: 5,360 Senior Member
    edited October 12
    I don't see the benefit of taking Chinese 4 when she has attended an after school Chinese program and has learned a lot more. A kid in my neighborhood used the after school Chinese classes to satisfy his HS foreign language requirement. That kid got into Harvard. He was very smart. It seems your kid's strategy about foreign language (attending after school and taking Chinese in HS) is not helpful.

    Regarding AP class: Adding 1 more AP class during the senior year does not help much for Ivy admission.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 25,767 Super Moderator
    edited October 12
    She is aiming for Ivy or the more selective schools
    Those colleges prefer 4 years. That said, the 4th year does not need to be a formal 4th year class. If she can ace the AP exam, that is the equivalent of a 4th yr HS class. The Subject Test, however, is not a 4th year equivalent.

    Will it make or break an application? Possibly not. But if these colleges reject 95% of applicants, if I were applying, I would want to present as strong an application as possible.
    her Chinese is much better than what is current taught at her school so she isn't as challenged
    I'm not a big fan of asking people to second-guess decisions that they (or their parents) made in 8th grade when choosing HS classes, but this really begs the question, If she's so advanced, why hasn't she, you, or the teacher suggested that she bump up a level? Top colleges want their applicants to feel challenged, but I would think they would expect said applicants to take an active role in their learning.
    Adding 1 more AP class during the senior year does not help much for Ivy admission.
    Agreed.
    Post edited by skieurope on
  • ocmomwith3ocmomwith3 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Thank you for the useful feedback - in terms of some of the feedback

    1) in terms of why not bump her up a level... we would if we could however, the school just started the Mandarin language and the highest level currently is Level 3. The school does not have AP Mandarin so we could pursue her after school language program ...if they have that option

    2) It is good to know that adding another AP class doesn't help in the overall scope of things.

    3) I did research and the comment about SAT II Chinese and Korean are the two hardest language tests because heritage speakers normally take it is also what I found as well

    4) She is not doing both after school Chinese and at the HS - only at the HS; she stopped the after school because her high school has long days with performing art conservatories until 5pm.

    We are pretty proud of her that as a 4th/5th generation Chinese that she is fairly fluent (both parents do not speak ;-) ) and she is prepping to take the SAT II in November. She is probably not going to hit those high scores of 800s but if she can score enough to qualify for the CA Biliteracy Seal that is her goal. The other route is to suggest to her to keep Mandarin another year so it one more thing to check off for those selective schools.

    Thanks All!

  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 25,767 Super Moderator
    the school just started the Mandarin language and the highest level currently is Level 3.
    OK, that was not clear in the original post. That changes things slightly. No college will penalize a student if the HS does not offer the class.
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