DD wants private tutoring for subject tests

My DD is a junior who is very interested in applying to Georgetown which requires 3 subject tests. She took the SAT in October and did very well (1550 - 790 M/760 CR) so we are now moving on to scheduling subject tests. She took a prep class before taking the SAT and seems worried about trying to take the subject tests without this type of structured preparation.

While I firmly believe that the SAT prep class helped her, I am not particularly interested in shelling out more money for subject test tutoring for two reasons. 1.) I believe that she is a smart kid who when motivated can work hard to achieve something AND 2.) My sense is that she doesn’t need to get close to perfect on these subject tests, but that anything over 700 should be more than good enough. So I am suggesting that she self-study using the plethora of online resources available.

Am I correct in my assumption that anything over a 700 is good enough for admission consideration for a school like Georgetown? Obviously I’d want her to try to do her best, but trying to figure out if I can help decrease her stress level by letting her know she doesn’t need to achieve perfection on these.


Get her prep books and tell her to ask her teachers for helping in what she doesn’t understand. One of my kids scored 800s on Lit and Math 2 by doing that. If she isn’t self motivated enough to do well with that method, she would likely struggle at a top college. Google the percentiles for the tests she wants to take. Some have much harsher curves than others.

If your D scores a 700 on the Math2 subject test, that puts her in the 66th percentile. A 700 on Math1 would be 81st percentile. That’s not going to wow anybody at G’town.

We always get someone who hops out here and says that schools don’t care about those percentiles. I disagree – higher scores ARE going to be more impressive than ones that hit a lower percentile point. My personal opinion for a top school is 750 on all tests is a much safer bet than 700.

agree with @intparent. If a school recommends subject tests, and G’town is certainly one of those, than be assured that they are an important part of the admissions decision. I do know kids, who have taken the same subject test a couple of times in order to have the right score to send to G’town

If my kid asked for tutoring I’d try to make it happen if for no other reason than to boost their self confidence.

How about letting her pay for some of the tutoring

Really? My kids only got tutoring in one subject in HS (foreign languages – they inherited a tin ear from my ex and I for them). Every other subject and standardized test, they were expected to study with the materials presented and work with their teachers as needed. A kid who can’t do well on subject tests without tutoring is not well equipped for a tough school like G’Town, in my opinion. The work is hard, the pace is fast, and a student mostly needs to be pretty self motivated to do well. Of course in a true bind they may need tutoring in something, but this kid hasn’t even tried yet.

D2 was tutored heavily for SAT IIs (math II and Literature) because her IB courses didn’t prepare her for those tests. Whereas D1 was not tutored for any of her SAT IIs and she got over 700 on all of them. D1 and D2 went to the same private school until D2 moved to an international school abroad.

Have your kid take some sample tests to see which ones she could do well. For a school like Georgetown, she should try to get 700+ for her SAT IIs. Not all schools teach their courses for their students to do well on SAT IIs. At my kids’ school, they specifically advised their students not to take the bio SAT II, but to take chem SAT II instead.
If your kid is asked to get tutored, I would listen to her.
I also think students should take their SAT II right after they have taken the course and not to wait until junior or senior year.

Re: #7- I disagree. While yes many students can do well on subject tests with studying, this is clearly a motivated student who is looking for additional resources and has had a positive experience with tutoring assistance in the past. Maybe she is anxious about the testing process, maybe she wants to help herself maximize her performance, maybe both. Its reasonable to want to resume her stress and hopefully increase her performance. If the money is spent and she does well, its all good. If you don’t spend the money and she doesn’t do as well as she’d hoped, she will be unhappy and more stressed and then want to get tutoring to retake. So, if the tutoring is affordable, why not?

And agree-- best time to take is right after completion of the course/subject in school.

My own experience decades ago with Achievement tests (as SAT subject tests were then called) was that no additional prep was needed to score well on them if one did well in the associated high school class (of course, optimal time is late spring as one is completing the associated class). I attended a high school which, at the time, sent about a third of graduates to four year colleges (mostly state universities), so it was not an academically elite one.

@wisteria100 Per their website, Georgetown does not support score choice so a student would have to send all scores for subject tests taken. I certainly hope my DD does well enough the first time to not have to retake a test but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

"Georgetown University does not participate in the Score Choice option available through the College Board. Georgetown requires that you submit scores from all test sittings of the SAT, ACT, and SAT II Subject Tests. "

Thanks to all for thoughts and comments. I think we’ll have her take some practice tests to see how she does and go from there. We can certainly afford the tutoring, I was just hoping perhaps that it wouldn’t be necessary. And we weren’t thinking far enough ahead to have her take tests like Chemistry at the end of her sophomore year when she was finishing up her Chemistry class. So we will have to take that into account when selecting the 3 tests she would take for her G’town admission.

Is she taking any AP classes that align with the SAT Subject tests? If she is she can take the Subject test right around the time she takes the AP exam (May). My son took the AP exam and Subject tests for Chemistry and USH during the same week. Same content, no extra studying.

GCs told our kids that 750 and above are good scores.

@ Adigel - My daughter is a senior who is applying to Georgetown. I would not hesitate to get her the tutor if she asked for it and the cost is not an issue. I would guess that your DD is taking a tough curriculum as a Junior and anything you can do to ease the load is money well spent in my opinion. A good tutor that will provide the materials, tricks for taking the test, and a structure for studying will make life simpler for her. From my DD’s experience, I can tell you that the subject tests are MUCH harder than an AP exam. My DD took math level 2 after extensive studying, without using a tutor, and scored a 720. I hired a tutor that she did two 2 hour sessions with and she got an 800. The tutor provided tricks, all the materials, a homework plan, put formulas in her calculator, and taught her how to use them. Since she is already done with the SAT, I would have her study for and take one subject test at a time. Good luck both to you and your DD.

@adigel If you go on the college board site, your daughter can try out the various subject tests on line. The site provides a number of sample questions for each test and provides answers and explantations. It doesn’t take too long to figure out which tests would be best suited for your child. My D did this, identified three tests that she felt she could do well on, and focused her prep on those. She used test prep books that we purchased on Amazon and for the US History, she supplemented with APUSH videos on youtube to review specific content areas.

Given how well your child did on her SAT I, I suspect she’s a quick study and wouldn’t need tutoring. There is considerable overlap between AP courses and SAT subject tests (but they are not identical). So if she’s taking AP courses now, that might be a good place to start. That said, D’s school does not offer AP curriculum, but her preparation was sufficient to obtain a good result.

Regarding scores 750+ should satisfy most elite colleges and universities. 700-750 is adequate, unless, for example you want a STEM major and get a 700 in your chosen field of science. Then a retake might be worth considering. Regarding percentiles, colleges and universities are aware that those who take subject tests are a high achieving, self-selecting group and that an 800 in Math II is only in the low 80s %