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Help requested on understanding SAT/AP score reporting

yearstogoyearstogo Registered User Posts: 648 Member
I would really appreciate it if someone who is experienced in score reporting and college applications could help me understand the pros/cons. My son will take his first SAT Subject test this weekend and I am trying to understand the rules and reporting for all of the tests he will be taking over the next few years. Not sure if it matters but son should be a competitive applicant at a top 20 to top 50 university.

If son sends scores to colleges/universities at the time of taking the test when he is a freshman/sophomore (nice to do since 4 are free) do the schools have a file to actually keep these scores or is this just a waste of time to send them?

Is the below correct?:


Important to take in 11th grade to be considered for National Merit Finalist. Any PSAT attempts taken previously are not reported nor have any impact on National Merit qualification determination (done on a state basis) in 11th grade. As far as I can tell, other than NMF, colleges are not too interested in PSAT scores.


Not a good idea to take the SAT until very prepared as many top colleges/universities require all SAT attempts to be reported. Do colleges force students to retake SAT if taken in sophomore year?

Same as SAT Subject tests, 4 reports can be sent to colleges for free each time SAT is taken, but afterwards $12/college report.

SAT Subject tests

Can pick and choose which SAT subject test to report. Colleges/universities do not require all attempts/tests to be reported. Many top colleges require 2 SAT Subject tests.

Can send 4 reports for free at time of taking the SAT Subject test, otherwise $12/college when sent later.

AP Exams

Similar to SAT Subject tests as students can choose which scores, if any, to report, but any cancellation of score must be done at the time of taking the AP exam. Not necessary to report all attempts and/or all AP's taken, as long as AP was cancelled? One free report can be sent (which includes all APs ever taken) at the time you take an AP. Colleges do not require students to list all attempts taken.

Colleges are more interested in the grade received in the actual AP class than the score on the AP exam.

Son is a few years away from applying to colleges and we are trying to avoid any surprises. Thanks very much!

Replies to: Help requested on understanding SAT/AP score reporting

  • suzy100suzy100 Registered User Posts: 5,730 Senior Member
    SAT Subject Tests: I personally would not use the free report because you can't see the scores before they are sent. I do believe the schools will keep the scores in some type of file. Is your son a sophomore? I think it's odd he's taking a subject test at this time. Has he finished the year in the subject? Most schools allow you to pick and choose which to send (if any). I believe there may still be a few that, if you send the SAT1, you have to send all SAT scores.

    PSAT: You are generally correct, although I think colleges consider NM Commended as an honor, but probably not a lot of weight. NMFinalist can pave the way for some nice merit packages at schools like Alabama and New Mexico, among others.

    SAT: Some tippy top colleges require that all attempts be sent, if that is the test you are using (as opposed to the ACT). No school would force a student to retake it if taken in sophomore year. My suggestion to students is to prepare to take the SAT for the first time in the fall of junior year. That prep will also cover the prep for the PSAT. I personally would not use the free score report because I would want to see the score before sending.

    AP Exams: College allow you to but do not require you to self-report scores at the time of application. I don't see any reason why someone would cancel a score. Rather, if it's not great, the student can decide not to self-report it. The actual scores themselves should be sent after matriculation if the school gives credit or uses them for placement.

    Hope this helps.

  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 43,785 Super Moderator
    I agree with @suzy100 . Just want to add one clarification.
    it's odd he's taking a subject test at this time
    It's not the norm, but it's not odd. Advanced math students may have completed precalc as a sophomore, at which time they are in good shape for Math 2. Often the HS science curriculum is to take bio in 9th and chem in 10th, so taking the subject tests at the end of the year in which the subject is taken makes sense. It's only here on CC where people have the incorrect impression that AP B io/Chem is needed for the Subject Tests.
  • yearstogoyearstogo Registered User Posts: 648 Member
    Thanks very much for the responses. He is very good at math and has made 800s on the four SAT Math II subject tests he took for practice. In middle school he did independent study for math and completed AOPS PreCalc plus has worked through the AoPS Calc book.

    He did not miss any questions on 3 of the 4 practice tests so I hope he can repeat it this weekend!! His HS has AP Calc as a full-year course and he is taking BC now (initially they refused and said AB but after the first quarter they decided he should take BC this spring), so far he is doing very well in the class.

    We feel good on math, but science is a bit worrisome as he wants to take AP Bio and AP Chem (plus AP World History) next year and I know many advise against taking these concurrently. He had a rigorous Bio course in middle school so is comfortable with the subject but he very little Chemistry. He plans to do some self-study over the summer as he has been approved to skip Honors Chemistry. I will not feel comfortable letting him report any SAT Subject test other than math II.

    Thanks again!
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 43,785 Super Moderator
    edited November 2017
    he wants to take AP Bio and AP Chem ... next year
    I know many advise against taking these concurrently.
    I'm one of them. The time commitment is insane. In addition to the commitment required by virtue of being AP's, each requires a lot of time for labs and lab reports. For many schools, these classes are either double-periods, or require additional time before/after school. He should save one for the following year.
  • DuchessltDuchesslt Registered User Posts: 67 Junior Member
    I would definitely check the amount of graded assignments the AP Chem and Bio teachers give daily/weekly before agreeing to that schedule.

    My son has been working 2.5 hours tonight on his chem homework because the problems are long. He is working with a UCLA biochem grad who thinks the assignment length given, especially when each problem is long, is ridiculous. Even though your son is brilliant, a teacher's routine expectations might make doubling up on 2 AP sciences brutal.

    I have heard from my mom, an AP teacher, that AP Physics A/B is manageable to double up with Bio or Chem if a student is strong in math.

  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 43,785 Super Moderator
    I have heard from my mom, an AP teacher, that AP Physics A/B is manageable to double up with Bio or Chem if a student is strong in math.
    Agreed. Physics with either bio or chem can be OK (again depends on the student), but AP bio and chem concurrently is just ungodly. And to put it in perspective, I make that statement as a current college STEM major.
  • yearstogoyearstogo Registered User Posts: 648 Member
    Thanks very much for everyone's insights! I will have him do a bit more investigation on what the course requirements are going to be for each AP course. His current high school is not challenging him and the level of instruction has been very disappointing. Given his experience this year I think he feels too confident he can get As in most classes at this high school but the concern is whether or not he can pull 5s on the AP exams.

  • ninakatarinaninakatarina Registered User Posts: 1,636 Senior Member
    I might take exception to the 'don't take the SAT if you're not super-prepared' line.

    If you plan to get super-prepared for the SAT, the difference between your first SAT score and second makes a very good story line for an admissions officer. It's a nice way to show personal intellectual growth.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 43,785 Super Moderator
    the concern is whether or not he can pull 5s on the AP exams.
    If the HS classes are not challenging, he can still pull out a 5, but it will require prep on his part outside of school. generally any prep book for the specific test will prove useful.
  • CValleCValle Registered User Posts: 857 Member
    @ninakatarina - A huge increase in score is also a great way to get flagged for cheating and have the College Board or the ACT people make your life miserable for a few months!
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 32,071 Senior Member
    Colleges don't care about PSAT scores unless you reach National Merit levels, but there are some summer programs that ask for them if you have them. Taking the PSAT as a sophomore is a good way to practice for the SAT without having a score you might have to report. (Since the PSAT is given during the school day not all schools will make this easy to do.)

    I don't think colleges care about an increase in SAT scores - they will forgive low scores and grades early on in high school, but it's never going to be a plus.

    I don't remember my older son working very hard on AP Chemistry - but he lucked out and had a tiny class - they got a lot more done in class time than the other much larger section. He took it as a senior and the rest of his schedule was (for him) fairly light. Both kids did well in AP Bio. They didn't think it was hard, but it was a lot of work. Just a huge amount of material to cover. Our school schedules the AP science classes with an extra lab period every other day that usually alternates with gym or health.
  • 3scoutsmom3scoutsmom Registered User Posts: 5,769 Senior Member
    If you think your student has a shot at National Merit always send a SAT free score to them, they will only consider the highest score. They will save SAT scores sent in 10th grade so that's one less thing to worry and pay for later!
  • MassmommMassmomm Registered User Posts: 3,899 Senior Member
    I think it's fine to take SAT subject tests as soon as you complete a course that covers the material. In my daughter's first high school, honors chemistry, taken sophomore year, was sufficient, and the kids who took the AP subject test scored in the high 700s to 800. This got one subject test out of the way early on.
  • yearstogoyearstogo Registered User Posts: 648 Member
    Score just came out and son made an 800 which is great but it says 79th percentile. Does this mean that the top 21 percent made an 800 or that he scored in the 79th percentile so that 21 percent made a higher score than him?

    I could not see any report that indicates how many questions he missed, if any. Sorry for the ignorance but this is the first subject test he has taken.
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