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AP or SAT subject? What is better for admission?

californiaaacaliforniaaa Registered User Posts: 1,915 Senior Member
edited January 2014 in College Admissions
Should a student take SAT subject? Or AP exam? What is better? Or should my D take both?

We looked at the sample tests in Biology. AP exam is much easier, because it is logical. SAT subject, on the other hand, is much more difficult for my D, because it requires lots of memorization of different terms.

What would you recommend for admission? Currently, AP exam looks easier. However, if colleges need SAT subject, my D. can start preparing herself now.
Post edited by californiaaa on

Replies to: AP or SAT subject? What is better for admission?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,973 Senior Member
    It depends on the college which, if any, of these tests are considered.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    This is not a straight forward answer because the truth is that some schools look at one over the other, and some schools don't care much at all for one or the other or either much at all. If your child is looking at the ivy league schools, or other highly selective schools, they tend to look at all of the SAT scores and some ask for at least 2 SAT 1 scores and use 5 part SAT scores for admissions screening. When my oldest son was applying to colleges, he did take abunch of SAT2 tests, did quite well on them, and we were told by his GC and by at least one Admissions officer at a selective school that it does make a difference. Those schools seem to be downplaying AP test scores and taking a whole lot of AP courses. Still a 5 in BC Calc and some other key AP subjects does make a difference. It does show that a student is taking the highest difficulty courses he can.

    So the quesition would be what colleges interest your D? Also does your D want college credit? Rarely will you get credit for an SAT2 result, but most schools give some credit for a AP test results.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,501 Senior Member
    For admission, some schools REQUIRE two SAT Subject tests. If you don't take them, you won't be considered for admission at those schools. I know of NO school that requires AP scores. In fact, AP scores for senior year courses will not even be received until after you graduate from high school.

    Some schools give credit for courses if a student earns a certain score in the SP rests. Not all do this. Most do not allow AP credits to apply for courses in your major.

    For admissions...I would say the SAT subject test if required is actually essential.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    I don't know of any school that suggests or requires AP tests.
    There are schools that suggest or require SAT subject tests.
    However, if you are trying for AP credit, for the school, AP tests would be mandatory.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 24,333 Senior Member
    We looked at the sample tests in Biology. AP exam is much easier, because it is logical. SAT subject, on the other hand, is much more difficult for my D, because it requires lots of memorization of different terms.

    I disagree. Bio requires memorization.

    If one can ace the AP Bio test, one can ace the Subject Test. But not vice versa.

    IMO, kids who are taking an AP class should take the related Subject Test. Even if a college does not require it, a 750+ still looks good on the app, right next to the AP-5.

    btw: a good AP double is Bio+Enviro. (The AP Bio test is evidencing more Enviro questions.) Then take the Bio-E subject test in May.
  • whenhenwhenhen Registered User Posts: 5,637 Senior Member
    APs are much more useful for most colleges than SAT subject tests. Your daughter can take the AP class, exam, and then the corresponding subject test.

    Also think about the level of the courses she'd take if she opted for the non AP track. Although there are a few standout high schools which offer courses more rigorous than the AP version, the vast majority do not.
  • californiaaacaliforniaaa Registered User Posts: 1,915 Senior Member
    UC schools
    Recommended SAT Subject Tests

    Remember, these are recommendations, not mandates. You will not be penalized for failing to take the SAT Subject Tests. On the other hand, submission of these test scores (just like submission of AP and/or IB scores) may add positively to the review of your application.

    Campus recommendations


    College of Chemistry and College of Engineering: Math Level 2 and a science test (Biology E/M, Chemistry, or Physics) closely related to the applicant's intended major.
  • californiaaacaliforniaaa Registered User Posts: 1,915 Senior Member
    bluebayou ,

    Prof. of Biology (my friend) could easily ace AP exam, but seriously struggled with SAT Biology exam. If you know the core of biology, AP exam is much easier.
  • californiaaacaliforniaaa Registered User Posts: 1,915 Senior Member
    whenhen ,

    Thanks. For my D. AP exam looks easier than SAT Biology. She will take the AP Biology.

    Should she try to master SAT biology as well? Or AP Biology is enough?
  • californiaaacaliforniaaa Registered User Posts: 1,915 Senior Member
    Thanks, everyone.

    I looked at the college admission websites. They state that SAT subject is recommended but not required.

    Let me re-phrase my question,

    Could AP Biology exam be used as a substitute for SAT Biology? Or would it be better to take both exams?
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,618 Senior Member
    AP biology is not a substitute for SAT biology. If we are talking about the sorts of colleges that require SAT subject tests, most will want to see good scores in two of them. Except for engineering schools most colleges don't care which two you take, so many students take a few practice tests from the Blue College Board SAT subject test book and see what they do best in. My non math/science guy by the way had no trouble with either the AP bio test or the subject test. (He got a 5 on the AP, 720 twice on bio SAT, trying both the E and M versions.) Well I suppose the AP test score was better, but as far as we were concerned over 700 was the goal on subject tests.

    Anyway, this is what we heard from admissions officer. If they require SAT subject tests, you have to take them. APs are not required and they don't need to see official score reports. They use APs as an indication that you are taking a challenging curriculum. If your school doesn't offer APs, you will not get dinged (or not much anyway). If your school claims their courses are better than APs and the school reports says so, that's okay too. If your student is a whiz at History and Math, she might be better off taking a history subject test and the math subject test. She doesn't need to take biology, but most students in AP Bio will find the subject test fairly easy. BTW if she takes APUSH, she will be very well prepared for the SAT in American History.

    Will getting a 5 on the AP before senior year demonstrate a master of biology? Yes. If a school recommends SAT tests, I'd take two of them, but it doesn't have to be the biology test. Just keep in mind that if she's going to take the biology SAT the easiest time to take it is when the material is fresh - i.e. May or June of the year she takes the course. Very little extra studying required if any. Generally the AP does not substitute for the SAT, though I know of at least one case where a student petitioned for it to do so, as they hadn't taken the right SATs for the program they had applied for.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 8,075 Senior Member
    California- it's a bit of apples and oranges. The AP test results are used in some cases to validate the school, the quality of instruction, etc. If your D is an A student in biology who scores a 2 on the AP exam, the A in biology becomes a question mark.

    SAT Bio results get submitted as part of her overall standardized test package. So if all of her scores are in the 700-740 range, nobody will be picking apart which score goes with which test.

    I don't know any college in the US which requires any AP scores (although they are recommended for Homeschoolers, in the absence of other non-mom and dad evaluations). Many colleges require SAT 2's as part of your D's application.

    So don't worry about AP's or waste time prepping for them- they are not necessary for admissions. But if she's applying for science programs and has already taken the recommended math, and needs the additional science, she needs to prep for the SAT 2.

    Every year parents post in April that their kid was denied at a program... and the sleuths here quickly ascertain that the school states "Math and one science SAT 2" and the kid took math and US History instead.

    Don't bother parsing the fine print- if the school states what they are looking for- take the appropriate test. Your friend the professors experience is not relevant- he is not looking to get admitted to college.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    Is she planning on majoring in bio at a school that recommends two SAT 2?
    Then I would take the SAT exam & skip AP.
    IMO you generally should steer away from placing out of intro courses in your major, because AP courses are not actually equivalent to many college level courses.
  • californiaaacaliforniaaa Registered User Posts: 1,915 Senior Member
    Summarizing the advices.

    1. College admission officers like SAT subject tests. Some colleges require 2 tests, some recommend SAT subject tests. My D is looking to UC schools (recommend SAT subject), Stanford (recommend), and ... she is not sure about the rest.

    2. It is worth taking 2 SAT subjects, not more. However, some schools require science SAT Subject, some require non-science. Since my D is not sure about her major, it is best to prepare for 3 SAT subjects.
    2.1. Math she will take.
    2.3 Some science SAT subject
    2.4 Some non-science SAT subject

    3. We need to aim at 700+ for SAT subject. Everything above 700 is fine.

  • MassmommMassmomm Registered User Posts: 2,810 Senior Member
    Not to muddy the waters, but even if she takes the subject tests, which she should, she can still take the AP exams (unless cost is an issue--they aren't cheap!). SAT is all about getting in; the AP tests are useful AFTER you've gotten in because you can earn credits or place in a higher level course if you've done well on them.
This discussion has been closed.