SAT subject tests are NOT truly optional for middle/upper middle class applicants at elite colleges!

I go back to my earlier statement that I’m at a loss as to why anyone applying to a college with single digit admissions rates would submit an application that was not as strong as possible, and that includes Subject Tests. Keep in mind that international acceptance rates is about half of the overall rate at some of these schools. Additionally, if taking the corresponding class the same year, the amount of prep for a Subject Test should be minimal for a student keeping up with the work, particularly if the class has a final exam. And it’s not like US students don’t have competing priorities as well.

They are spouting the official line, which is that Subject Tests are not required. Feel free to believe that statement.

for an international student from a non-English speaking country, even preparing for a biology SAT II needs a lot of time, learning the terminology and this stuff. I believe that it is better to prep for an above average SAT General score and one Subject test than study for three tests receiving an average score.

When those are the only two option, then you are probably right, but that’s a decision you need to make for you. But, IMO, if you want to make that decision, don’t blame outside factors; own the decision. There are many students from non-English speaking countries, like me for instance, who managed to submit applications with all the required and “recommended” tests. And I am sure there have been applicants who were admitted with one or no Subject Tests. Will you be one of the success stories? Who knows? Good luck.

@sbjdorlo An MIT person said on CC that anything with a leading 7 and they knew the kid “could do the work.” That’s not enough for admission, it’s vague, just the beginning, doesn’t necessarily make one competitive, at all. She may have been referring to the SAT, not S2. And that was before the New SAT. Count on that number being higher now.

Folks. Listen to ski (and a few others.) When you apply with 40k others, when adcoms need to filter hard and fast, when there are thousands just like you, but THEY submitted it all, with strengths, you may very well get set aside. You could be the one with the file note, “sorry we don’t have further scores.”

No, they don’t always insist. But be logical.

And this notion you only need an S2 to make up for a bad grade? Or in some unrelated field? What you need is to be on your game, 110%. Or 150%. Or they’ll pick others.

Again, elites. A broad category of top and tippy top that filter purposefully, even brutally. A competition, not a walk in the park.

An email sent to me by a Dartmouth admissions officer who I personally know. I quote “Because we no longer require the submission of SAT IIs, sending just one exam should be just fine. It makes sense that you’d want to focus heavily on your success on the national exams – and that is just fine with us!”

Re. MIT and admissions: sure, I advise the students I work with to shoot for 800s or high 700s on the SAT Math and SAT Math II and science Subject tests. Of course. However, MIT definitely has some flex for diverse students who score 700+, but don’t hit the 750+ mark.

As I said, my own son, an MIT graduate, got 800s on his Math II and Physics subject tests (actually got his 800 in 8th grade on the Physics test), but MIT really does look at context for URM students (women, ethnic URMs, first gen, etc.) because diversity greatly matters to MIT. They are very upfront about that. They also look at more than test scores. I’ve worked with students who’ve gotten into MIT and students who haven’t, and it has never surprised me to see who gets in and who doesn’t.

My recent response was to someone who was asking about their non-STEM subject tests and my response was, and still is, send it in. A 700+ on a non-STEM subject test shows depth beyond STEM.

“I’ve worked with students who’ve gotten into MIT and students who haven’t, and it has never surprised me to see who gets in and who doesn’t.”’

I’ve rarely been surprised by MIT, they say they admit the best math, science and engineering students and they do. The MIT grads I’ve worked with are top notch, no questioning them like, “how did they get into MIT?”, which does happen for other colleges.

Actually no, that’s not what I meant; I meant the other qualities that matter: character, circumstances, essays, recommendations, how they serve, and so forth.

My students that apply to MIT all have strong STEM involvement, but in this recent app cycle, it was actually my student who lacked a lot of advanced work and STEM-related activities that was selected over two others who had many more STEM achievements…but I can easily guess why this student got in, and I know this student will do an amazing job at MIT.

I understand that “recommended” can mean required for certain students. What about “not required”? The Cornell requirements page specifies the required testing for each undergrad college. Sometimes SAT2s are “required” and sometimes “not required”. So does that seem like a student can really skip them?

I am guessing that if you take a subject test and don’t do well, it will reflect upon you. If you got an A in the related class, but did poorly on the subject test, I would guess that the A was not equivalent to an A at a more rigorous school. I don’t have data to back that up, but I do believe test scores matter.

What if the student has taken college calculus classes? Is it still necessary to show colleges a score in math 2 when the student would have forgotten most of that early math?

A student who has done well in calculus should know the precalculus stuff well, since doing calculus means practicing the precalculus stuff.

But not always automatically. Mine sort of skimmed through Algebra II and Geometry, while almost skipping probability. She did fine in her Trig and Calculus classes, but neither in SAT Math nor Math II, until this Summer when she took a Stat course and put a big effort in reviewing a Sat Math II prep book. This was part of my long term education plan. I focused most of her early math learning on deductive reasoning, and thought all standard math subjects will catch up as they are needed.

Now, I think comparing recommended and considered, or wording of “not disadvantage” are all silly in competitive college admission. If SAT Subject tests are only considered and you are not disadvantaged for not taking them, but your otherwise similar peers took them and are advantaged because it was “considered,” then you will have a less chance to get accepted as a result of not doing all you could. It doesn’t matter how they are called. It is a zero sum game. If someone is advantaged and you are not, then you are disadvantaged.

You can prep for SAT Math & Math II together, while working on SAT Reading & Literature together, and you got two SAT Subject tests covered. And you can take a science SAT Subject test right after taking an AP Science test, or just completing a science course’s final for that subject.

Many kids today are taking the math level 2 test early for just this reason. I haven’t seen statistics, but I know a number of kids who have taken math level 2 in elementary school, including my own.

Maybe yes, maybe no. It really depends on the kid and the precalculus class she took. A familiarity with basic functions and trigonometrics especially will of course be very useful for calculus, but some typical precalculus topics like matrices, conics, combinatorics and probability, complex numbers, and even vectors are either not encountered in most beginning single variable calculus classes or will have been treated so cursorily in precalc as to be useless.

The takeaway imo is that kids should take the math level 2 subject test as soon as possible after studying precalc; they shouldn’t rely on the idea that AP Calc will have kept their aptitude for most of the precalc topics likely to be encountered on the subject test.

Agreed, There is nothing that says Subject Tests should not be taken earlier than junior year.

As did I, and none of my colleges had an issue with Subject Tests taken in 8th grade.

The other takeaway IMO is that there are few examples of “in lieu of;” if a college wants a Subject Test and does not offer an in lieu of, then is wants a Subject Test, not an A in Multivariable Calculus (which is still great, but not what they asked for.

Yes, but… a huge percentage of those taking the Korean or Chinese test get an 800 because the majority of students taking those tests are native speakers or heritage speakers. The tests are not designed for native speakers, though; they are designed for non-natives who study the language in the US at high school. The CB actually breaks out separate scoring percentiles for natives vs non-natives.

For the non-native cohort (which probably includes a non-trivial percentage of natives and heritage speakers tbh), the percentiles are of course very different. Whether this distinction is appreciated by AOs is another matter. I tend to think that at the schools that care about STs, the AOs will have some appreciation for the student’s language background.

If you were able to actually look at non-natives who just studied the language at a US high school, I would wager that the percentage of 800 scores is among the lowest of all Subject Tests.

I know someone who was admitted to UChicago with 800s in Math II and Eng Lit. I would guess that those scores (at least the English) helped this student. If submitting scores can help somebody’s application, then what does it mean if you say that not submitting scores will not hurt your application? I feel that these admissions offices are always speaking through their legal counsel: We won’t subtract points from your app if you don’t submit ST’s—that’s as far as they say. They neglect the qualification: but that doesn’t mean we won’t add points to somebody else’s app if they submit ST’s.

Our college counselor says, “Nothing is optional. If it is there to be done, do it.”

If you excluded Chinese and Korean, the percentiles for an 800 for non-heritage speakers is in the mid -to high 90’s, so roughly on par with all other subjects except M2, chem, and physics. An 800 for non-heritage speakers in Chinese and Korean is in the high 80’s, but Korean is statistically meaningless to use for comparison due to the low number of non-heritage test takers (70) and Chinese is not much better with 700 non-heritage test takers.

That said, I’m of the opinion that while AOs are aware of the percentiles directionally, they are not cross-referencing percentile charts.

Look, if you want a college that values critical thinking, you can’t sleepwalk through any of this. You do need to discern what is absolute and what’s “adcom speak.”

Very few kids need strength in their family language for their proposed majors. And if you’re a heritage speaker, they can wonder why you chose to submit that S2 test, especially if you haven’t also shown scores in the usual humanities and math/sci. (The exception being schools that ask for specific tests.) It can look like you took an easy way out. You don’t want adcoms stopping to wonder why? Or just how seriously you thought all this through.

Same goes for LoRs. Make them relevant. Make your whole app relevant. You are not qualified to second guess them, so don’t assume.

Kids can easily figure their standing in theor own high schools. It’s much more difficult to understand how much competition you face for a tippy top ot top college. Be wise.