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SAT subject tests are NOT truly optional for middle/upper middle class applicants at elite colleges!

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Replies to: SAT subject tests are NOT truly optional for middle/upper middle class applicants at elite colleges!

  • skieuropeskieurope 39655 replies7204 threads Super Moderator
    I have a question- is this also the case for students from public high schools that aren't very wealthy or good or competitive?
    @stressedgirl21 I answered your question in post #6.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78689 replies698 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    I have a question- is this also the case for students from public high schools that aren't very wealthy or good or competitive? If necessary I know that my family could afford to pay another 50 dollars for a test, but I didn't even know these existed until I saw them listed on the sign up for test registration, and I didn't know what they were for. Nobody in my school takes these- I mean literally nobody. We just assume they're for rich smart kids applying to Princeton, and our guidance counselors never mentioned them to us. Also a whole lot of kids in my school get fee waivers (though I don't) for the SAT and they probably wouldn't get them for the SAT subject tests so maybe that's why they don't tell us about them.

    "Recommended" instead of "required" is meant to cover students in high schools like yours where students tend not to be told about SAT subject tests until it is too late.

    It is the students in upper middle class to wealthy district schools or private prep schools which have college-admission-express trains running starting in 11th grade or earlier, where students are advised of all of the usual requirements and recommendations early enough that they can plan for them without as much time pressure, who should treat "recommended" as "required".
    edited October 2017
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  • happy1happy1 22984 replies2267 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    Another voice agreeing with the post. I heard an admission officer from an Ivy school say that they made the SAT II optional in order to make admissions more accessible to poor and rural students who either don't have the money to take the exam or a way to readily get to an exam center.
    edited October 2017
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  • 4junior4junior 244 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited October 2017
    CC told D that unless her subject test scores were markedly higher than her regular SAT scores it was not important to test/send. If your scores or gpa are inconsistent then subject tests can weight your profile one way or another; but if you have a very consistent profile they are not going to matter either way. Not submitting will not be an automatic 'ding' against you, in fact it can make you look less 'helicoptered' which in the landscape of competitive HS is not a bad angle IF it fits your profile. This is for top LAC only, I hear other things about different types of school and certainly for Ivys they are warranted.
    edited October 2017
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  • SybyllaSybylla 3929 replies50 threads Senior Member
    I do wonder why APs are so discounted in the application process WRT SAT2s, if students have solid scores in solid AP subjects, why are they not considered equal to SATs? Some of them would be harder than SATs. no?
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  • 4junior4junior 244 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Sybylla, APs are easy to study for with a clearly defined curriculum. Subject tests less so, esp ones like Lit. Many schools do not teach an AP curriculum so the tests are irrelevant to a wide range of students.
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  • observer12observer12 319 replies0 threads Member
    edited October 2017
    Is it possible that SAT subject tests are more important for middle class and upper middle class students coming from public schools and unknown private schools than for students coming from well-known privates that seem to send disproportionately high numbers of their students to very selective colleges?

    These would not be students who can't afford the fee. These would be students who attend private high schools well known to college admissions officers who feel so confident of the academic standards that they see no need for all the students they admit from the school to provide 2 or 3 extremely high subject test scores.
    edited October 2017
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  • planner03planner03 1335 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    Also a whole lot of kids in my school get fee waivers (though I don't) for the SAT and they probably wouldn't get them for the SAT subject tests so maybe that's why they don't tell us about them.

    CB provides waivers for 2 sittings of the SAT as well as 2 sittings of the SAT II.. I think it is more of an issue of not being aware of the SAT IIs than cost.
    edited October 2017
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  • billcshobillcsho 18315 replies91 threads Senior Member
    For Northwestern, it depends on which program. The integrated science major still requires 3 specific subject tests.
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  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 367 replies15 threads Member
    @skieurope
    Considered is truly optional - if the scores are great, it can help and certainly won't hurt.
    . Is there a resource for determining what a "great" score is for each subject? I often hear 700+ is generally good enough to send to schools that "consider" subject tests and that 700+ would only help not hurt chances at elite schools. But a 710 on Math II, for example, does not sound like a great score. Would submitting that to Vanderbilt or Haverford, say, hurt your chances?
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  • oldschooldadoldschooldad 129 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Report from the field: at our local HS most kids and counselors seem oblivious to subject tests. GCs definitely do not emphasize them. I've seen a few cases where people say "Oh, the subject tests are only recommended, not required--one less thing to worry about!" Luckily, we got the memo in time but in my experience most people don't. Folk wisdom prevails. People mistake SAT IIs for something like an arts supplement that truly is optional and not appropriate for everybody. I've tried to tell people that if they really want to aim for a certain class of school they really should make the extra effort and take subject tests, unless financial hardship is really a barrier. "Oh, but they're not required!" Sigh.
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  • 4junior4junior 244 replies9 threads Junior Member
    @ProfessorMom1 Prep Scholar has a chart. Google "prep scholar subject test good score"

    It is very different depending on the test.
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  • Faulkner1897Faulkner1897 515 replies7 threads Member
    edited October 2017
    @ProfessorMom1 - I have heard that the subject test scores should typically be in line with the 50-75th percentile SAT section scores for that school. Language subject test scores for non-native speakers might have different parameters.
    edited October 2017
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  • sushirittosushiritto 4155 replies12 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    Just looking at the table from the Prep Scholar, a 700 in Literature puts a student in the 74th percentile, but a 700 in Math Level II would be the 45th percentile. Quite a difference.

    The question is whether any admissions people actually care about percentiles.
    edited October 2017
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39655 replies7204 threads Super Moderator
    But a 710 on Math II, for example, does not sound like a great score. Would submitting that to Vanderbilt or Haverford, say, hurt your chances?
    The question is whether any admissions people actually care about percentiles.
    I've expressed my opinion on this topic on other threads, but it bears repeating:

    One thing to realize: percentiles don't matter; scores matter. It is important to understand that for several subjects, the percentiles are depressed because so few colleges request Subject Tests, that the ones that do are the ultra selective ones. As a result, it is the high achieving kids taking the tests. No AO is sitting on the floor cross-referencing scores with percentiles.

    As to what a "great" score is, that's subjective, IMO and also based in part on the school. A 710 in M2 to MIT or Harvey Mudd is probably not going to enhance an application. A 710 to Vandy or Haverford would be fine.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78689 replies698 threads Senior Member
    The percentiles reflect self-selection of those who take each test. For example, Math 2 has higher scores than Math 1, because only the stronger students in math (who are at least one grade level ahead of the normal sequence) take Math 2.
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  • sushirittosushiritto 4155 replies12 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    No AO is sitting on the floor cross-referencing scores with percentiles.

    I assume some may think about percentiles, but most probably don't. However, if it were me reviewing hundreds of apps, I'd probably figure out in a hurry that certain subject tests have higher scores than others. As an example, there are fewer 800's in Literature than Math Level 2. Patterns develop and become ingrained in the brain or at least they would for me.
    edited October 2017
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39655 replies7204 threads Super Moderator
    edited October 2017
    I'd probably figure out in a hurry that certain subject tests have higher scores than others. As an example, there are fewer 800's in Literature than Math Level 2.
    Agreed. And I think that it's safe to assume that most AO's know that the percentile for an 800 in Chinese is low, even if they don't remember the exact percentile. That said, I don't think that any AO is saying that a 7X0 is one subject is on par with a 7Y0 is another where X≠Y. At least, I certainly hope not. There are enough parlor games on this site without an endless array of "Which Subject Score is Better." threads.

    For the almost all colleges that consider Subject Tests (and again, in the grand scheme of things, the number of colleges is small), I am of the opinion that once once passes the threshold (whatever that number is can be up for debate - just not here), 10 points or 30 points will not move the needle.
    edited October 2017
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