Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.

SAT Subject Tests helpful in any way if a kid has taken ACTs?

GossamerWingsGossamerWings Registered User Posts: 1,559 Senior Member
Wondering if having a couple of good scores on subject tests bolsters an application if the student has taken the ACTs and applying to a school that asks for either ACTs or SATs + subject tests. I have been told that the school won't bother to look at the subject tests unless the student took the SATs. I'm sure it's a bit school dependent, but does anyone have any thoughts? Thanks.

Replies to: SAT Subject Tests helpful in any way if a kid has taken ACTs?

  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 29,442 Senior Member
    This is entirely dependent on the college/university in question. You need to contact them directly, and ask.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 32,045 Senior Member
    Many schools will look at anything that lands in the file. But you have to ask or scour the websites for answers.

    And just for example, most of Carnegie Mellon's schools require subject tests even with the ACT.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 36,885 Senior Member
    Doesn't hurt. But check the percentiles on the scores before sending them, they are deceptive. Example: a 700 on Math II is only 50th percentile.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 32,045 Senior Member
    That doesn't mean you shouldn't send the Math II, it's a very selective crowd that takes Math II. It's probably better to get a 700 on it than a 750 or 800 on math I. Physics is a another subject test where only the strongest kids take the test. That doesn't mean a 700 isn't still a good score. (54%ile.) And if you are a humanities or social science kid sending in a 700+ score in math or science that's more than fine.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,387 Senior Member
    Percentiles mean nothing for SAT 2 scores. As I've said before, nobody is going to be more impressed with a 700 on bio ecology than with a 700 math 2c just because a 700 is a higher percentile on the bio.

    In answer to the OP's question, I think it matters which SAT II tests you're talking about. If you've got a high ACT including a high reading score, I doubt sending a good SAT II Lit score will make much difference. If however you were to send an 800 French with listening score (and you aren't a native French speaker) I think that would help because foreign language is not something the ACT tests.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 36,885 Senior Member
    We have had this discussion -- I have no idea why you think admissions officers aren't looking at those percentages and judging by them. They wouldn't ask for the tests, then not pay attention to the info published by the college board on what the scores actually mean.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,387 Senior Member
    edited October 2015
    The reason I think that is because an admissions officer at a top college explained it to me a long time ago.

    As a general rule of thumb, the smaller and more self-selected a group of test takers is, the higher the percentiles will be. So, a 700 on the math level 2 exam is 65th percentile. A 700 on the math level 1 is an 83rd percentile. http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/highered/ra/sat/SubjTestPercentileRanks.pdf That does NOT mean that a college admissions officer is going to be more impressed by a 700 on math level one than math level 2. (S)he knows that math level 2 is a more difficult exam which covers more advanced math concepts than level one and that, in the aggregate, those who take the level 2 test are better mathematicians than those who take level one.

    If you want to believe that you should not send good scores on tough tests which are taken by a self-selected group of applicants because the percentiles are lower, you're free to believe that. However, it just isn't so.

    If it were, than the 50th percentile on all SAT 2 tests would be scored as a 500. Other percentiles would be standard across the board. They aren't.

    Thus, when colleges which use an academic index to determine eligibility for athletic recruitment compute that index, they use the number score and compute the number. They do NOT use the percentiles to compute it.
  • Mom2aphysicsgeekMom2aphysicsgeek Registered User Posts: 4,499 Senior Member
    edited October 2015
    I agree with @jonri The answer is not simple and not based just on percentile scores. Many top schools will actually give foreign language credit based on SAT subject test scores, even scores in the 600s with a low percentile ranking. For example, look below at the Stanford info, a Chinese score of 630 is only around the 5% and the French, Latin, and Spanish scores are around the 40-50%.

    Stanford: https://web.stanford.edu/dept/lc/language/requirement/
    Stanford students are required to complete one year of college-level study in a foreign language (or the equivalent). Students can fulfill the requirement in any one of the following ways......

    Achieving a satisfactory score on the SAT-II in the following languages:
    Chinese: 630
    French: 640
    German: 630
    Hebrew: 540
    Italian: 630
    Japanese: 620
    Korean: 630
    Latin: 630
    Spanish: 630

    Harvard requires scores in the 700s anywhere from around 12-70% depending on the language. Princeton's score requirements are higher, 760, but the percentile scores still range from around 24-92%, again depending on the language.

    stepping down a little in school ranking, Tulane's requirements:
    https://tulane.edu/advising/language.cfm
    Foreign Language Placement

    If you have a qualifying score on a language test (SAT II 640 or higher, AP 4 or 5, Higher Level IB 5 or above), you have demonstrated competency beyond the 2030 level and will be placed in an upper-level course.

    http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/highered/ra/sat/SAT_subject_tests_percentile_ranks.pdf
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 41,516 Senior Member
    ^in fact, foreign language SAT Subjects are the only ones that function just like the AP Foreign Language tests, so if the student had 4 years in a foreign language, it's absolutely worth it to take it. Although taking one semester of college foreign language is a good thing (there's an increased focus on culture, vs. grammar), having only one semester, vs 3 or 4, is welcome for students who don't want to study abroad or work in social science/humanities/arts, don't plan to work in an international company, don't want to major in business, IR, political science, foreign languages, comparative literature, history, and don't plan on going to grad school.

    In most cases, the subject tests that are most worthwhile are those subjects not tested on the ACT. Foreign Language is a definite one.
    Major-depending: Literature, if you're not a native speaker, can help, but it's already tested, so only take if you plan on majoring in the HUmanities/social sciences and are pretty sure you'll get a high score. Math on the ACT includes trigonometry (the last 4-5 questions which, under those time constraints, are really tough to get right) so Math 2 isn't necessary but, like Literature, can add a bit more depth to to how well you know the subject if you're a stem student. History, on the other hand,isn't tested stricto sensu (there may be one history text in the Reading section but not always), so it's a good pick. The ACT's science section is more scientific reasoning than knowledge of a science, so that's another test that can be taken.

    And yes, percentiles don't matter - what matters (depending on the college) is scoring a 700+ or, for foreign language, hitting their minimum recommended score or even being close to it (ie., if they want 640 and you have 620, they clearly consider it a good score since just a tiny bit above would waive a college graduation requirement... and so it helps you.)
  • GossamerWingsGossamerWings Registered User Posts: 1,559 Senior Member
    My D actually took the Lit Subject Test and thought it was very different than the English or Reading ACT. I guess it has a lot of poetry in it, and maybe more creative writing in general vs. non-fiction?
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 41,516 Senior Member
    Yes, it's basically novels, drama, poetry from the British and American traditions, plus some other texts representing literature from English- speaking countries.
  • jupiter98jupiter98 Registered User Posts: 322 Member
    We sent Lit (700) and Bio (750) along with ACT to all colleges. Let them decide if they want to look at the scores or not ;)
This discussion has been closed.