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The 1500+ 'sweet spots'

lcqs8937lcqs8937 0 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
I scored a 1520 on my SAT on my first attempt, but my counselor feels that I should do a re-take to try and superscore into a 1540+. They claim this is to stay in a 'sweet spot' for admissions. I currently want to do a biochemistry major, but I'm on the fence about re-taking. If I want to apply to schools like Columbia, Rice, etc. will I need to reach the aforementioned 'sweet spot' for SAT scores?
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Replies to: The 1500+ 'sweet spots'

  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 266 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 17
    Many posters are going to answer the wrong question here, saying, "a 1520 won't be the reason you are denied at [named elite school]." Well, of course, in a holistic review, a test score will never be the sole reason you are denied (or accepted).

    The real question is: for your specific application, with your specific academic, extracurricular and demographic profile, would a 1540+ make a difference for admission, not denial.

    I don't think anyone on here can answer that for you. I will say that I tend to look at 1560-1600 as materially stronger than 1490-1530, and, contrary to many people on here, I think that standardized tests do measure important aspects of an applicant's ability to college-level work.

    If I were targeting Rice and Columbia, yes I'd retake for a higher score unless I was very confident that my application had other special attributes like URM, legacy, athletic preference, female in hard sciences or math (biochem doesn't count in my opinion), etc.
    edited September 17
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 17
    Thing is, top adcoms are not just looking at the total. It's each score. For all we know, 1520 could be an 800 and 720, and the lower is beneath a target bar (call it 750, for Columbia.) And more problematic is when that lower score is the one related to your ideas for a major.

    So I suspect OP has a little more thinking to do, to understand his or her position. Plus, after the stats, the rest of holistic is more than some nice ECs and/or hooks.
    edited September 17
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 771 replies5 threadsRegistered User Member
    Thing is, top adcoms are not just looking at the total. It's each score. For all we know, 1520 could be an 800 and 720, and the lower is beneath a target bar (call it 750, for Columbia.) And more problematic is when that lower score is the one related to your ideas for a major.

    That's exactly what our GC said last year.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Agree on that, if it's 760/760.

    But too many kids on CC right now aren't aware of all it takes to get into a most competitive college. We know zip about this OP.
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 266 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 17
    The 1540 is just a projected number by the OP. Every test result is going to have a random component, captured in part in statistical terms by the standard error of measurement. Any test score is just an approximation of the test taker's "true" score. OP has only taken the test one time, at least officially.

    Just as a 1520 could have been an underestimation of the OP's "true" score, OP might just might score an overestimate next time. Regardless of component test breakdown, I think it's worth it for most candidates targeting those schools to retake. A projected 1540 could just as easily turn out to be an achieved 1570 or 1580, and I think that in the era of score choice, a 1570 or 1580 could make the difference.

    Of course, it's always a question of tradeoffs - prep time versus other, potentially better uses of the time. Given the random component, additional prep might not even be necessary (although I would always recommend a bit of additional prep - very unlikely to hurt one's future score).
    edited September 17
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2226 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    For Columbia, the middle 50% of admitted students scored between 1460 and 1550. For Rice it is 1450 and 1560.

    Did you study hard for the SAT the first time you took it? I ask because about 1/3 of all scores drop on a retake, and a fair amount stay the same. The odds slightly favor a modest increase - which in your case would be enough. But you should plan to work as hard for the retake as you did the first time.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Mid 50% includes all sorts of wild cards. The GC may be reflecting the advice to be near the 75th percentile. But in ths case, I still think the issue is what actual scores.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 909 replies12 threadsRegistered User Member
    BKSquared wrote: »
    Really? The difference between a 1520 and a 1540 is probably 1 to 2 questions depending on that test's scaling.

    Same gap as 1520-1500, so they are practically the same? Same gap as 1500-1520, so they’re practically the same. By extending that logic, 1600 and 1300 are practically the same.

    AOs look at every piece of data and, yes, I do think every piece of data goes into the decision. It may be small, but there are always the 5 last students that get in and the last 5 students that are not admitted. The gap between those groups is minute. So yes, 20 points on an SAT, or .02 on a GPA, or one extra EC can make a difference.

    I know it’s popular here to say “X isn”t the reason you didn’t get in”, but if I added all those up, 1500, 750/750, 3.85 would have no reason not to be accepted at Harvard/MIT.

    IMHO, once you’re below about 1550, yes, every incremental score is incrementally impactful to a decision.

    OP - as you’ve only taken to SAT once, I think it is work focusing on the areas where you missed questions and try to improve. You typically max out after three tries, but just one may leave an opportunity. Yes, you may have maxed out after one try, but that would be out of the ordinary (though not really “rare” either).
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  • BKSquaredBKSquared 1386 replies7 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 17
    @dropbox77177 , sure a 1580 is better than a 1520, but what is the probability of increasing the score by 40+ points vs the time and effort required (vs applying the time and effort to classes, SAT2's, AP's, EC's, essays)? There is an almost equal probability that the score will be lower. Turning a 720 to a 760+, especially if the 720 was a result of careless errors is a different proposition than taking a 760/760 to a 780/780 if the mistakes were substantive. Also, what is the value of 40-60 points?

    In holistic admissions practiced by the top schools, standardized test scores are only 1 subcomponent of the academic component. Most top schools state that the most important academic criteria is the high school transcript, grades and rigor. LoR's from teachers and GC's, academic awards and recognition also are key factors. If you go into the academic rating instructions for Harvard that were disclosed in the litigation, you will see that to get an academic rating of 1: "Genuine scholar; near-perfect scores and grades (in most cases) combined with unusual creativity and possible evidence of original scholarship." To get a "1" a student needs to show much more than scores and grades, and even non-perfect scores could still yield a "1". Contrast that with a "2" (which is still a great rating) that lays out an objective criteria of "mid-to high 700 scores (33+ACT). " https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-look-at-harvards-admissions-guidelines-1539804848?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=2&mod=article_inline

    @RichInPitt , I was addressing the OP's GC's position that there was some magic sweetspot of 1540+. While purely anecdotal, one of S's friends with a 1570 got rejected while another with a 1440 got accepted into Harvard with similar GPA's but very different quality of EC's. Neither kid had any hooks. IMO, people, including GC's, obsess over small increments in test scores because that this is something they think they have control over.
    edited September 17
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Let's say OP does have 760/760. Then he/she is done. Done. Great enough. Not worth the risks, effort, or distraction.

    Holistic. Colleges that want par strengths all around. A 720 would be beneath the so-called bar. That's vastly different than saying an applicant to a holistic tippytop needs to raise a 760 to a 780. At that point, diminishing returns. Misplaced effort.

    Would I have told my kiddo to retake? One significant difference is I know my kid, where she could thrive, what strengths, including self presentation. I might have left her to 720 and 800 and just left it to chance. But I'm considering more than just stats, in possible match.

    We have no such sense of this OP. Nothing about grades, rigor, balance, ECs. No sense of his/her savvy or suitability. No way we can definitely tell him or her what to do.
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  • SeaUMUW03SeaUMUW03 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @TiggerDad @BKSquared @lookingforward May I ask how important are subject test scores? Is 780 Math II and 770 Biology E fine for top elite schools? I am currently studying to retake it again but even if I improve by a couple of points is it worth it? Reason I am scared is that so many others get 800s. I do have a 1560 SAT as well FYI, I am not sure if that helps. Thank you!
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39229 replies7004 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited September 29
    Is 780 Math II and 770 Biology E fine for top elite schools?
    Assuming Caltech and MIT are not among them where it seems like almost everyone gets an 800 in M2, the scores are more than fine.
    I am currently studying to retake it again
    Don't. Spend the time on your essays.. There is a lot more to the applications than just your scores.

    And in the future, ask your question in your own thread. Hijacking another person;s thread is against the rules and is considered rude to the original poster.
    edited September 29
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  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 1891 replies70 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Nothing more to add to what skieurope stated.
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  • SeaUMUW03SeaUMUW03 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @skieurope sorry about that! just joined. @lcqs8937 I apologize
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    See, this is one reason I nag that kids need to know a lot more about what their tippy top targets want.

    The hoped for scores at the college I know best start at 750. That's nothing that hard to figure out, if you're looking at the data these schools put in front of us. Not what hearsay claims.

    So, some will say it's nuts to retake 760 and 780 subject scores. The risk adcoms will wince and ask what you were thinking is worse than not getting an 800. Meanwhile, a kid is restudying and missing the determinants that matter more, in the end. This is holistic, not hierarchical.


    "For my son...my theory for HIS quantitative threshold, given HIS qualitative merits (EC's, essays, LOR's, arts supplement, etc.) worked largely to his favor."

    But I believe he was taking a hard look at what match is. Holistic.
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