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Require 2 subject tests...am I disadvantaged if I don't have 3?

nygiants27nygiants27 Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
edited September 2012 in Harvard University
As an applicant to Harvard and other Ivy Leagues, I noticed that most of these schools say they REQUIRE 2 subject tests (some recommend 3). As 2 is the baseline requirement, am I at a disadvantage if I only submit 2 and not 3? Most AI calculators I've seen require 3 scores, and I was told by a few people that if I don't submit a third subject test score then I automatically lose all the points from the AI for that test and will have a significantly reduced score...I'm pretty confused by how they can do this if they explicitly state they only require 2. Can anyone please clarify or give me some advice as to what to do? Was anyone else told the same thing, or submit 2 tests and get accepted...or rejected...etc?

The scores I have right now are Math 2 800 and Chemistry 800. I took Bio previously and got 760 and I'm debating whether or not to take an October SAT 2 Spanish and try for 800. My original plan was to only submit the math and chem scores.

Any advice is appreciated, thanks!
Post edited by nygiants27 on

Replies to: Require 2 subject tests...am I disadvantaged if I don't have 3?

  • amandazsamandazs Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    I sent 3: 800 Math 2, 780 Bio M, and 750 US Hist and I was accepted. I'd say send the 760, that won't take away from your application!
  • bcisaidsobcisaidso Registered User Posts: 74 Junior Member
    ...and my D and her classmate both sent two scores and were accepted. I don't think H is trying to trick people by saying it requires 2 when it really wants 3. I also don't see anything wrong with sending an excellent score (760) in a second science, and I think you should find something more productive to do than sit for another subject test, but that's just my opinion.
  • Writer100Writer100 Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    I would think it would be fine either way, send your two 800s or include your 760. I don't think you are hurt sending only two (my child only had two) and I don't think it hurts to send one that is under 800 (my child sent in an 800 and a 770).

    I really wouldn't over think it or stress about it. Best of luck to you.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,372 Senior Member
    Send all 3 test scores, as: (1) all of your scores are terrific and (2) test scores are one of the less important factors in selective college admissions. See: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/video-transcription/whats-the-most-important-part-of-the-application

    "Students, when we're on the road, we often play a little kind of quiz show game with students, asking what they think is the most important part of the application. Many, many students respond, "Well, the testing must be the most important." It's actually one of the less important elements in the file. The testing can give you a sense of what schools are within your range, and it gives the school a sense of what students in the applicant pool are within their range. The most important part of your application — bar none, no question, any college — is your high school transcript. Probably the next most important are your teacher recommendations, particularly if you're applying to any kind of selective college or university."
  • exsrchexsrch Registered User Posts: 92 Junior Member
    "We have found that the best predictors at Harvard are Advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate Exams, closely followed by the College Board subject tests. High school grades are next in predictive power, followed by the SAT and ACT. The writing tests of the SAT and ACT have predictive power similar to the subject tests."

    Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard's Dean, Part 2 - NYTimes.com

    Although I agree with Gibby's perspectives for most schools Fitzsimmons makes it clear that it does not apply to Harvard.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,372 Senior Member
    Fitzsimmons also makes it clear in part 3: Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard's Dean, Part 3 - NYTimes.com

    "Recommendations from secondary school teachers and counselors are extremely important at Harvard and at many other colleges, particularly those with selective admissions processes. FACED WITH MORE ACADEMICALLY QUALIFIED STUDENTS THAN PLACES IN THE FRESHMAN CLASS, our admission officers review the two required teacher recommendations and the counselor report with great care, often commenting on them in writing on “reader sheets” in each application.

    We often project the recommendations themselves onto large screens so that all members of the Admissions Committee can see them during the subcommittee and full committee review processes in February and March.

    RECOMMENDATIONS CAN HELP US SEE BEYOND TEST SCORES AND GRADES and other credentials and can illuminate such personal qualities as character and leadership as well as intellectual curiosity, creativity, and love of learning."
    So, my point in post #5 was that Harvard DOES NOT use test scores as the SOLE determining factor in admissions. They rely heavily on teacher recommendations -- much more so than just test scores alone.
  • notjoenotjoe Registered User Posts: 1,181 Senior Member
    gibby,

    You said:

    "So, my point in post #5 was that Harvard DOES NOT use test scores as the SOLE determining factor in admissions."

    But no one was debating that. The thing that you originally said with which the other poster disagreed, was something different:

    "...test scores are one of the less important factors in selective college admissions."

    The two things aren't the same. Harvard makes clear that the subject tests, and indeed, test scores and GPAs in general, are "the best predictors at Harvard..." I assume they mean the best predictors of success at Harvard.

    And I'm guessing that that is the first and most important characteristic for which Harvard is looking when deciding who they will admit. Harvard didn't achieve a 97% - 98% graduation rate by accepting students they weren't sure, by use of objective measures, could graduate. A student could have the most fabulous recommendations ever written, but if the objective measures of academic excellence aren't there, he or she is probably not going to get in.

    I suspect that recommendations take on increased importance only once the admissions committee has decided that a particular student is sufficiently-qualified for greater consideration.

    Also, there is a bit of contradiction between the two statements, or at least, they are in significant tension with each other. But keep in mind, too, that there is good reason to take Dean Fitzsimmons' words with a grain of salt, especially when there may be a note of contradiction in them, as could be interpreted here.

    Harvard's problem is not that it can't attract highly-qualified students. Harvard's problem (and that of many elite universities) is that students keep trying to "crack the formula" for success, and thus, hang on every word from someone like Dean Fitzsimmons, to figure out how to shape their applications, how to present themselves, how to "spin" their accomplishments, achievements, recommendations, etc.

    And frankly, my sense is that Harvard would prefer that students not do that, and more importantly, Harvard admissions folks may feel ambivalently about providing information that looks too much like a formula.

    So. a little ambiguity, a little inconsistency, a little fuzziness may be just what Harvard folks want to communicate.

    Thus, we see Dean Fitzsimmons saying two things that could readily be interpreted as possibly contradictory:

    "We have found that the best predictors at Harvard are Advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate Exams, closely followed by the College Board subject tests. High school grades are next in predictive power, followed by the SAT and ACT. The writing tests of the SAT and ACT have predictive power similar to the subject tests."

    and then:

    "Recommendations from secondary school teachers and counselors are extremely important at Harvard and at many other colleges, particularly those with selective admissions processes. FACED WITH MORE ACADEMICALLY QUALIFIED STUDENTS THAN PLACES IN THE FRESHMAN CLASS, our admission officers review the two required teacher recommendations and the counselor report with great care, often commenting on them in writing on “reader sheets” in each application.

    We often project the recommendations themselves onto large screens so that all members of the Admissions Committee can see them during the subcommittee and full committee review processes in February and March.

    RECOMMENDATIONS CAN HELP US SEE BEYOND TEST SCORES AND GRADES and other credentials and can illuminate such personal qualities as character and leadership as well as intellectual curiosity, creativity, and love of learning."
  • worktowinworktowin Registered User Posts: 38 Junior Member
    Gibby used a source quoted:

    "The most important part of your application — bar none, no question, any college — is your high school transcript."

    And Exsrch quoted Fitzsimmons:

    "We have found that the best predictors at Harvard are Advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate Exams, closely followed by the College Board subject tests. HIGH SCHOOL GRADES ARE NEXT IN PREDICTIVE POWER, followed by the SAT and ACT. The writing tests of the SAT and ACT have predictive power similar to the subject tests."

    I think the sourced quotes above were the differences and not the issues raised by Gibby about the value of the total application nor the weight of recommendation - I don't think the OP nor Exsrch was suggesting those things weren't important. What is absolutly clear from Fitzsimmons comment is, for Harvard, high school grades are less important to the SAT 2 which contradicts the source referenced by Gibby.

    To Notjoe's comment, I would agree, recommendation are valuable after Harvard has figured out applicants have met the predictive bar.
  • nygiants27nygiants27 Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    Thanks everyone! I'll just send all 3 and see what ends up happening.
This discussion has been closed.