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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!

  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 18,405 Senior Member
    For Northwestern, it depends on which program. The integrated science major still requires 3 specific subject tests.
  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 Registered User Posts: 382 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?
  • oldschooldadoldschooldad Registered User Posts: 127 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.
  • 4junior4junior Registered User Posts: 253 Junior Member
    @ProfessorMom1 Prep Scholar has a chart. Google "prep scholar subject test good score"

    It is very different depending on the test.
  • Faulkner1897Faulkner1897 Registered User Posts: 511 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.
  • sushirittosushiritto Registered User Posts: 3,296 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.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 43,617 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.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 76,614 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.
  • sushirittosushiritto Registered User Posts: 3,296 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.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 43,617 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.
  • 57special57special Registered User Posts: 557 Member
    edited October 2017
    From the University of Chicago website;

    " We require either the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT. If you have done exceptionally well on a particular subject test and would like to show us, feel free to send us that score. However, SAT II’s are truly optional, and not sending us Subject Tests will not hurt your application."
  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 Registered User Posts: 382 Member
    @4junior Ah, yes. That info will be helpful for students. It does reflect the wide range of "good" scores, depending on the subject. It seems to me that according to the prep scholar site, one wants to have at least a score that hits the 70th percentile if applying to "elite" schools. @skieurope 's point re AO not looking at percentiles makes sense, but for the purposes of applicants identifying "good" scores, that chart is helpful.
  • 4junior4junior Registered User Posts: 253 Junior Member
    @ProfessorMom1 I would think the % target would correlate to the SAT/ACT % target of the school you are submitting to. Eg for Williams or Harvard 70% would not be helpful as it is below the target of those schools. All the way at the bottom of the page is a chart with 3 levels of grouping, I guess that would match the difficulty of admissions of the schools.
  • Penn95Penn95 Registered User Posts: 2,361 Senior Member
    edited October 2017
    Here is what Penn has to say on SAT subject tests. These are not on the front page of the admissions website so you would have to do a bit of digging to get them.

    http://pennwpadmin.wpengine.com/a-note-on-penns-standardized-testing-policy/

    " Meanwhile, we’ve seen the SAT Subject Tests provide useful information about student preparation. While we have no preference for the SAT vs. the ACT, the SAT Subject Tests can provide insight into specific areas of study for students."

    https://news.upenn.edu/news/penn-announces-new-testing-requirements-applicants

    “This change reflects our research that shows that, when considered in the full context of the application, the SAT Subject Tests are strong predictors of performance at Penn,”
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