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SAT Subject Tests FAQ

On January 19th, 2021, College Board announced that they will no longer administer the SAT Subject Tests in the U.S. and that the Essay would be retired. Read our blog post to understand what this means in the near term and what the College Board has in store for students down the road.

Our articles on Subject Tests and the SAT Essay will remain on our site for reference purposes as colleges and students transition to a revised testing landscape.


In this post we’ll take a deep dive into the tactical considerations around Subject Test planning. A more succinct summary of the Subject Test landscape may be found here. Please feel free to call your Compass Director for an individualized assessment of your needs and to schedule practice tests for these important exams.

Click Each Question Below to Reveal an Expanded Answer:


Second semester of 11th grade is perhaps the most intense stretch of the college admission testing gauntlet that students must run. Many Compass students have just taken or are about to take their SAT or ACT, but for those applying to a highly selective college, there is no rest for the weary! It’s time to finalize a plan for Subject Tests targeting a test date of May and/or June. Subject Tests are expected by only about 20 of the most selective U.S. colleges and universities, but these institutions tend to attract the most attention from ambitious students.


  • Choosing the subjects in which you have the most potential
  • Nailing the timing of when you take the tests
  • Ensuring that there are no gaps in your preparation

The best way to avoid tactical errors is to ensure each of these decisions is informed by the results of practice tests. We recommend taking an initial diagnostic test—one hour per subject—no later than 5 weeks before the official date you are considering. Our proctored test sessions and analysis of results are complimentary; however, advance reservations are required, and sessions close to popular test dates will fill up.

The good news is that an initial diagnostic test and review of the results may be all you need to do to be ready. Many students find that their academic coursework—particularly in AP and honors classes—is often sufficient as preparation for Subject Tests. And when additional tutoring for Subject Tests is needed, that prep tends to be both efficient and multi-purpose. Most students select Subject Tests that correspond with current academic classes, so tutoring for Subject Tests tends to serve double-duty as prep for an AP or final exam.


Subject Tests and Advanced Placement exams are often confused. Think of them as cousins, but not siblings. They serve different roles. Subject Tests are designed to allow students to demonstrate achievement in a particular academic area, but the tests are not tied to specific curricula and are expressly intended to be used in admission decisions. AP exams are more directly tied to a particular set of academic specifications. While APs certainly serve a role in admission decisions as evidence of mastery of the highest level offering of a particular subject, their original and official purpose is reflected in their moniker: “Advanced Placement.” Many colleges still link course placement and course credit to performance on AP exams. So while your AP classes will help inform your Subject Test planning, APs do not replace Subject Tests in the admission process (with very rare exceptions, e.g. NYU).


The answer depends entirely on the contours of the field on which a student intends to compete. While Subject Test scores are relevant at only about 3% of the four-year institutions in the U.S., the scores can be significant factors in the admission decisions at a little over 20 colleges that are extremely popular. And an additional 60 colleges—also quite well known—will consider Subject Tests if submitted.

To evaluate the tests’ importance in your individual situation, start by reviewing the list of these 100 institutions. If you’re an 11th grader, then you likely have a college list in mind to cross-reference. 10th graders usually aren’t as far along in their planning but may at least have an idea of whether the likes of Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Williams, etc. will be under consideration. You should also keep in mind that specific academic majors (e.g. engineering or nursing) within a college may require Subject Tests that are not required for all applicants to the college.

As a general rule, if you may decide to apply to one of the selective colleges in the up-to-date list on our website or to a particularly competitive academic major within a college, then you should keep your options open by taking Subject Tests.


The minimum expectation is two tests (with the sole exception of Georgetown, which still states a preference for three tests). Whether you should push yourself to exceed the minimum can be determined by a common sense assessment of the competitiveness of the applicant pool at your target colleges. Context is key.

For example: George Washington University and Stanford University will both consider Subject Tests. However, in 2014, GW admitted approximately 45% of the students who applied for admission, while Stanford admitted only 5%.

We would advise you to accept GW’s position at face value. You could reasonably conclude that while GW would like to see Subject Tests, it’s much more of a soft preference than an implied expectation.

On the other hand, and keeping in mind that a 5% admission rate made Stanford the most selective undergraduate institution in the country in 2014, it would be wise to exceed Stanford’s “will consider” by striving to produce outstanding Subject Test scores to submit if you possibly can.

A rule of thumb: The more competitive the applicant pool, the more you should interpret “recommended” as “expected” and “considered” as “recommended.” And if you could excel on more than the minimum of two Subject Tests without too much extra effort, then you should probably do so. It’s not uncommon for Compass’ most ambitious students to take three to five Subject Tests, if such an approach is supported by their academic coursework and strengths.


Optimal selection of Subject Tests is critical, and the best choices are usually those that align with your most advanced classes and your academic strengths. See the following list of subjects and months when each subject is offered, noting that not all subjects are offered on all test dates.

Here is a table detailing the number of questions and a brief description of each test:

Thoughts to keep in mind as you are evaluating these options relative to your classes at school and your academic strengths:

The more advanced and challenging the academic class, the more likely that the material will overlap significantly with a related Subject Test. If you are in an AP or honors/advanced class that corresponds with a Subject Test, then it is almost certainly advisable to at least take a practice test to evaluate whether you should take that Subject Test officially.

The alignment of content is not always straightforward though, and the practice test results must be interpreted with caution. Let’s take AP U.S. History for example:

A student expecting to score a 4 or 5 on AP-USH will find much content that is familiar on the ST-USH. However, we are not suggesting that even the top students in AP-USH should just walk into the ST-USH cold. The content overlap is not 100%. While most AP classes start with the arrival of the Europeans in the “New World,” the Subject Test takes the more enlightened view that Native American history is fair game too.

Then there is the rather fast pacing of Subject Tests. The ST-USH has 90-95 multiple-choice questions in just 60 minutes. Students must move quickly and act decisively. And decisiveness in the face of uncertainty is essential, as even the students most steeped in U.S. History may find a surprising number of questions with unfamiliar content. The test is designed to be approachable by students who have been taught U.S. History from a variety of pedagogical emphases. This broad but shallow characterization of the content means that very few high school history classes will have covered every stitch of material on the test, and therefore most students will need to make educated guesses or skip at least some questions. This also means that indecisive guessers and reluctant skippers may struggle to finish the exam.

Finally, the conversion scale reflects these realities of the test’s construction. A typical ST-USH scale allows students to leave as many as ten questions blank and still receive the top score of 800. Even students leaving half the questions blank could still score around 600.


With just a few exceptions, you should take a particular Subject Test at the end of the school year when you have taken a corresponding class of appropriate rigor. May or June of 11th grade is thus the most popular window when the majority of Subject Tests are taken. 10th and even 9th grade students may be advised to take a Subject Test, if they are excelling in an AP or advanced class in a subject that they will not continue in before 12th grade.

The choice between the May and June test dates requires careful consideration. June tends to be more popular, simply because it is later in the school year for most students and occurs very close to their final exams. It’s a lot to worry about simultaneously, but you get more bang (points) for your studying buck (time). Students in a corresponding AP class may find that their AP exam date is closer to the May date for Subject Tests than the June date. Would you rather study for the Subject Test first, knock that out, and then move on to the AP….or vice versa? We recommend you consult with your teacher at school. Many (but not all, unfortunately) teachers are well-versed in the Subject Test related to their specialty. They may be able to give subject-specific advice. Some may even tell you to take the AP first and wait until June for the Subject Test, because they plan to spend class time on the Subject Test material in the 1–3 week period between the AP date and the June date for Subject Tests.

Keep in mind that you can’t freely choose between May and June for Subject Tests if you have already planned to take the SAT on one of these test dates. You cannot take the SAT and the Subject Tests on the same date (we wouldn’t wish that on anybody even if it were possible). This is one of the reasons why we recommend a December, January, or March test date for a first sitting of the SAT. The ACT helpfully avoids College Board test dates, so the April and June ACT test dates do not pose a direct conflict. The June ACT date is always the second weekend in June, one week after the SAT / Subject Tests date. You could choose to utilize both of these June dates, in which case your summer break would be especially well earned.

The fall test dates are generally unpopular for Subject Tests. Thoughtful exceptions include an October tester who took an intensive summer school course or a November tester who wants to take the version of a Language test with a listening component (often preferred by native speakers). An unfortunate exception would be a student who somehow missed or failed to heed the advice to take Subject Tests at the end of the school year when students are most typically peaking in a particular subject.


Generally, yes. (See the next question for caveats related to colleges that disallow Score Choice.) The most typical retesting scenario would be to take a first stab on the May test date and then get right back on the horse for the June test date. Equestrian skills and test-taking skills tend to improve with experience, like most anything else. This May-then-June approach is a bit unusual though, as most students feel it will be sufficient to target just one test date and use practice tests (and possibly a modicum of tutoring) to ensure they are well prepared. Also, there is not time to test in May, wait to receive your score 2–3 weeks later, and then register for the June test date. The June registration deadline is earlier than the May score reporting date, so students wishing to keep the retest possibility open would need to pre-register for June well in advance. Those who sign up after the late registration deadline receive “Waitlist Status,” which does not guarantee a spot.

Another rationale for retesting would result from taking classes that build upon one another. For example, consider a 10th grader taking Honors Pre-Calculus. The content of the Math Level 2 aligns quite well with most Honors Pre-Calculus classes, so from that perspective the end of the 10th grade may be the optimal window. A 10th grader in this situation may be able to bank a top score on Math Level 2 and thus have less to worry about in 11th grade. Or, that 10th grader may find that there is still significant room for improvement after the first try, so he/she could decide to take another stab at it a year later. That student would typically go on to AP Calculus AB in 11th grade. The content of Calc AB is generally beyond the emphases of the Math Level 2, but math skills tend to be acquired cumulatively and retained. These further developed math skills specifically combined with another 12 months of academic maturity generally may be the ticket to an even higher Math 2 score.

If you’ve been paying attention at all, then you know what we rely on to help make these timing and retesting decisions. Practice tests! Never take an official test cold, and avoid speculation as much as possible in selecting tests and test dates.


Maybe. Technically the College Board gives you “Score Choice” capability, allowing you the ability to selectively report your scores as you see fit. You could, for example, take the Math 2, Literature, and Chemistry exams on the same test date and then later choose to report only certain scores from this date to any particular college. However, some colleges disallow Score Choice and require you to stipulate in your admission application that you have not exercised Score Choice. The “who” and “why” of this issue would require its own blog post, but try not to worry about it. If there is reason to believe that a retest would increase your score, then retest. If you retest and a particular college expects you to report both scores, then report both scores. The likelihood is extremely remote that any college would scrutinize the trend in your scores and discount a gain in any meaningful way.


If you find the variety of Score Choice postures confusing, here’s another head-scratcher: Many colleges require Subject Tests if paired with the SAT, but will officially accept the ACT alone as meeting the basic testing requirement. Let’s take two universities you may have heard of as examples: Harvard requires at least two Subject Tests IN ADDITION to EITHER the SAT or ACT, while Yale will fully consider your application for admission with ONLY an ACT score (Yale requires Subject Tests only if you chose to take the SAT instead of the ACT). Princeton and MIT are in Harvard’s camp on this issue, while Penn and Columbia see it Yale’s way. For a complete list, see the institutions listed in this table.

Confused yet? We don’t blame you. The pundits and gurus don’t all agree on why this variation in practices exists.

On the one hand, we are reluctant to suggest that any college’s policy should be taken at less than face value. If Yale’s policy says that an ACT alone is accepted equally in lieu of the SAT and several Subject Tests, who are we to suggest otherwise?

On the other hand, it’s possible that the option to submit an ACT score alone may make that college appear more welcoming to some prospective applicants, especially those in geographic locations or demographic circumstances in which Subject Tests are less readily available. For the typical Compass student in a competitive high school in California and carrying a schedule full of AP and Honors classes, we feel it is advisable to demonstrate academic strengths as convincingly as possible. In many cases this is best achieved by submitting Subject Tests regardless of whether they are technically required.


You can take as many as three Subject Tests on a test date, but you don’t have to take that many—you could take just one or two. You can choose to spread your Subject Tests across multiple test dates if your schedule allows. Each Subject Test is one hour long. Only having to cope with one or two Subject Tests on a certain date makes for a less taxing day, and this may reflect positively in your scores. It’s possible, for example, to take 1–2 Subject Tests in June of 10th grade, 1–2 more in May of 11th grade, and 1–2 more in June of 11th grade, with some of those tests serving as second attempts in the same subject. Each student has unique circumstances and strengths, so there is no static template.


Up to the very last minute. While the registration form for Subject Tests asks you to indicate which subjects you intend to take (we’re not sure why), this is non-binding. On the day of the test, you are given a thick booklet with all subjects, and you choose then and there which subjects you will take. Don’t worry: If you decide to take more subjects than you paid for when you registered, the College Board will remember to bill you for the difference.


Yes, you choose the order. Most students choose to start with the subject on which they feel they need the most energy and/or are most hopeful will be their best subject, but this is entirely up to you.


We’re sorry to keep saying “It depends,” but, well….it really does depend on the context. While few institutions readily report Subject Test data for admitted or enrolled students, we can make some reasonable assumptions. SAT score data in the middle-50th percentiles (25th % to 75th %) are available, and it stands to reason that Subject Test scores for enrolled students are similar to SAT scores. Students can expect that Subject Test scores in the low-mid 700s put them in the same ballpark as other applicants to the highly selective colleges that require Subject Tests.

When evaluating your Subject Test scores, focus on the scaled score from 200–800 and not the reported percentile. Percentile scores for Subject Tests are misleading, because they often indicate a skewed testing population. For example, only 27,000 students take the Physics test each year, so it is logical to assume that most are quite good at Physics. Your scaled score, not your percentile, is the most important number on your Subject Test report and allows you to compare your performance across different subjects.

If you’ve read this far, we salute you! Making decisions based on accurate information is half the battle, so your commitment to being well-informed will serve you well. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information, personalized guidance, and practice tests.

Adam Ingersoll

Adam began his career in test prep in 1993 while at the University of Southern California, where he was a student-athlete on the basketball team, worked in the admission office, and graduated magna cum laude. Over the last three decades he has guided thousands of families to successful experiences with standardized tests and has mentored hundreds of the industry's most sought-after tutors. Adam is known nationally as a leading expert on college admission testing and is a frequent presenter at higher ed conferences, faculty development workshops, and school seminars.


  • Sandy says:

    My son will be starting his senior year with a 4.7 GPA, killer resume of science research, community service, and sports. His SAT score (old SAT) was 2230.
    His subject tests were 790 Biology E, 770 US History, and 620 on Spanish ( he said the vocabulary were words he’d never seen/learned )… He’s applying to a few REACH schools, one of which is Pomona College. They require two subject tests, and it appears that they require that you certify you’re sending all the scores (so no super scoring, I believe). My question is: Should my son take another subject test this fall, like Math 2 or literature (both I believe he’d do well on)? or just hope that university will not put much weight on the Spanish score. (He’s not planning on majoring in spanish.)
    Thank you

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Yes, Pomona is a “portfolio” school that wants to see all scores and read them holistically. This is usually more of a concern with students who have taken 4 SATs and 5 ACTs in order to try to build up a solid superscore for other schools. Your son has two excellent Subject Test scores that satisfy Pomona’s requirements. I think the Spanish score will indicate 1) he tried a third test and didn’t do all that well 2) he probably isn’t going to be a Spanish major. Admission officers understand both points and don’t like missing out on students just because they took a “reach” test. Additional tests might improve his test transcript by showing an even wider range of skills, but I wouldn’t take them just to camouflage Spanish. He should be pretty confident that he’ll get 700+ (ideally 750+) before committing to them.

  • Kamal Adhed says:

    Can I take one or two SAT subjects tests in the same day that I am going to take the SAT I test? As I have a limited time to complete and submit my application to the university? Regards

  • Saad says:

    I have registered for 3 Sat Subject tests in October but now i feel i cant appear in all 3 simultaneously i tried to change it on the SAT website but it didn’t let me change it. is there anyway i could withdraw from one of the tests and get my money back for it?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      While College Board is clear about how fees are charge for ADDED tests, there is no information I can find online about how — or if — refunds are made for dropping a subject after registration. If you do not feel that you need your money back, then you can simply not take the third test. In order to obtain a refund, though, you’ll need to investigate with College Board support:
      Domestic: 866-756-7346
      International: 212-713-7789

  • dhruthi says:

    Can I choose two subjects and attend it on two different dates

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You can do 1 subject on each of two dates, but you’ll pay for two registration fees. There is no reason on the College Board side or on the college side why you can’t submit tests from multiple dates.

  • Matt says:


    My son is interested in computer engineering and/or finance. He has taken general SAT test and obtained a score around 2150. He plans to take one subject SAT (Math level 1 or level 2). He feels more comfortable with math level 1, since the his school math courses do not cover all contents of math level 2. I have two questions for you:

    1) He can do SAT of math level 2 but score may not be as high as wished. Meth level 1 seems much easier for him. Do you recommend him to take math level 1 or try math level 2? Do those top universities more recognize SAT of math level 2?

    2) Most universities recommend two subject SAT tests. However, he may not have enough time to prepare for another subject SAT test. Thus, would it be helpful to submit score of only one Subject SAT test (math)? Or perhaps only submitting score of general SAT test would be a better option?

    Look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you very much in advance.


    • Art Sawyer says:

      This is a tough decision that many students face. A school such as MIT states no preference, but that is easier to do when your 25th – 75th percentile range for admitted students is 780 – 800. Many engineering programs do ask specifically for Math 2 (although many don’t require Subject Tests at all). Your son should take practice tests in Math 1 and Math 2 from the Official College Board Guide to Subject Tests. The Math 2 is more challenging, but it has a more lenient curve. It is more widely accepted at top engineering programs, so can be more useful overall.

      There is no reason that you can’t send a single Subject Test. In fact, if you don’t use Score Choice, all of your SAT and Subject Test scores are sent automatically. As long as you feel that your score(s) are strong enough, I would include them.

      • Paul says:

        I took the Math Level II subject test as a Sophomore and received a 780. I normally would not ask whether I should retake this text but Math is going to be my intended major in college. I am worried that given the curve on that exam that admissions may look at my ability as sub par to other applicants. Can you offer some advise?
        ACT 35C, E35,M35,R34,S34
        Chemistry Subject Test 710 (junior year)
        Biology Subject Test 710 (freshman year)

  • Rishika says:

    Hi! I have a question. If I take the Subject SATs, but I realize that the college I am applying to does not require subject SATs, do I still have to send it?

  • Paul says:

    I have a question. I took the Math Level II subject test as a Sophomore and received a 780. I normally would not ask whether I should retake this test but Math is going to be my intended major in college. I am worried that given the curve on that exam that admissions may look at my ability as sub par to other applicants. Can you offer some advise?
    My other test scores are as follows:
    ACT 35C, E35,M35,R34,S34
    Chemistry Subject Test 710 (junior year)
    Biology Subject Test 710 (freshman year)

    • Art Sawyer says:

      The curve — I assume you are referring to the percentile distribution — on the Math 2 is extreme because of the testing pool. That doesn’t mean that a 780 is going to make you look sub-par. Standardized tests are not able to make the level of distinction to say that the ability level of an 800 scorer is higher than that of a 780 scorer. This may seem odd — isn’t an 800 higher? — but it’s a purely mathematical function of the test’s reliability. I think it would be a mistake for you to focus on a retest.

  • Rachel says:

    Thanks for being such a beautiful soul.
    I wanted to ask if i take an additional test than the ones I have registered for how much extra do I need to pay or it would be the same as the original? What would be the procedure?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Each additional test is $20. A Language with Listening test is $26. The cost is the same whether you add the tests when you register or after. In fact, unless you want to add a Listening test, all you really need to do is show up. The Subject Test booklet will contain all of the tests, and you will be allowed to do 1, 2, or 3. If you paid for fewer than you take, they’ll simply bill you the additional fees. If you want to make sure that things are taken care of ahead of time, or you are adding a Listening test, I’d recommend contacting College Board at 866-756-7346 (Domestic) or 212-713-7789 (International). You may also be able to make the change via your online account.

  • Steven says:


    I’m about to send scores for my early action deadlines and was just going to submit all of my scores from my SAT and not score choice. However, I took SAT subject tests on October 1st and have not received the scores back yet. If I choose not to send those scores right at this moment, will my colleges see my scores as score choiced?

    Let me know!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I may be misunderstanding your question, so I am going to try to over-answer.

      Colleges never see scores as “Score Choiced” or non-Score Choiced. They simply get a report (usually via an electronic update) with the scores that you have asked to be reported. If you’d like to see your October scores before sending them, that’s your prerogative. If you then send them along later, they’ll simply be added to your file — no questions asked. The big caveat surrounds timing. If you want your Subject Test scores to be considered, you need to meet the college deadlines. Even if your scores miss the November 1 deadline, the admission office may consider them if they have not acted on your application yet. Bottom line: try not to cut it close, because it is incredibly stressful.

      Even colleges that expect “all scores” generally make an exception for Subject Tests, so you should be fine with deciding which ST’s to send along. Just pay attention to the deadlines!

  • Heather says:

    Hi, Georgetown university requires all subject tests be sent, I took the SAT, ACT, and subject tests, and I want to send ACT scores, not the SAT scores. So, if I need to send all scores, wouldn’t that automatically cause the SAT scores to send? Because if I deselect the SAT scores, the status shows up as “some scores” will be sent to Georgetown, not all scores. Is there a way to prevent this, any solutions? Thanks!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      If you want to send just Subject Test scores, then it sounds like you are doing things correctly. You are, indeed, only sending some of your College Board scores. This information is purely for your benefit. Georgetown does not see whether some or all scores have been selected.

      Here’s the rub, though: Georgetown expects to receive your SAT scores even if you are submitting the ACT. “Georgetown requires that you submit scores from all test sittings of the SAT, ACT, and SAT II Subject Tests.” So if your intent is to follow Georgetown’s rules explicitly, then you would need to send your full College Board set of scores.

  • John says:

    My daughter is applying to a good number of top 20 schools (in addition to her safeties). Transcript (rigor and grades) will be stellar. All A’s and many AP/IB courses (including Bio, Chem and Physics). Her SAT (old) is 670CR/780M/780W. She has an 800 Math 2 score. She has almost all 5s in her APs but no science AP scores yet (all math, English and humanities). She is applying to schools as a Biology major. My question is given her academic profile, what score on the Biology Subject Test would you submit to a top 20 school, if it was optional? Do you think it has to be above a 750? Thank you so much! (PS the reason she is late taking the Bio Subject test is because the IB curriculum is two years long, as opposed to the AP’s one year curriculum).

  • nikitha says:

    I’ve registered for 2 subject tests and now i want to take 3, i have a week left for the test. How do i change?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Just show up. Unless you forgot to sign up for a listening test, you’ll be able to add a third test right then (the testing booklet includes all of the exams). College Board will bill you for the additional test. For once, College Board makes something simple. If you’ve forgotten to take a listening test, I think you are too late. If listening is in your plans, give College Board a call and see if anything can be done.

  • Sam Kim says:

    Mr. Sawyer,
    I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find the answer to my questions so I was hoping you would be able to answer it. When colleges say that they want two subject tests, do the two test have to be from two different subjects or can it be two tests from the same subject? For example history is my strong suit so can I take world history and us history for my two subject tests or is that not allowed because they are both under the category of history?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Like so much involving Subject Tests, it depends.
      1) Many science and engineering programs ask for Subject Tests in specific areas such as Math 2 and a hard science. Since you are wondering about the history tests, I’m guessing STEM is not you.
      2) There are a handful of schools that ask for Subject Tests in different categories (University of California was like this before they dropped the Subject Tests), but those are sometimes colleges with test flexible policies that allow different tests to fulfill different requirements — e.g. pick one test from column A, one from column B, and one from column C.
      3) Just because it is not forbidden does not mean that you should do it. Subject Tests are an opportunity to show depth and breadth. Submitting US and World History tests does not show as much breadth as US History and Biology. However, if those are clearly your strongest areas, I would not shy away from it. A good World History score will help more than a bad Physics score. The no-no is Math 1 and Math 2. While not specifically forbidden under many policies, it just doesn’t make any sense.

  • Anne Bryant says:

    First, let me say that your input and information is phenomenal!! Thank you for the time and energy you put into helping students and parents:) Here’s my question: Son has applied to Stanford (submitted this weekend). He has sent in his SAT I score and his ACT score (one sitting each). Stanford requires all of those scores. So he is good there. The uncertainty comes with their wording about the SAT 2 Subject Test scores. Stanford’s website says that since Subject Tests are optional “we welcome the self-reporting of these results in your application”. My son had taken the Literature test and the US History test last spring. He reported the Literature score on his application but not the US History score since he was not happy with that one. He then took the Math 2 test in October and reported that Math 2 score on his application. So he has self-reported two Subject Tests on the application, which follows Stanford’s instructions. Question is, does he or does he not need to report the US History score??? It is technically not part of their testing requirement that states they require all scores (that is listed when talking about SAT I and ACT scores). Have I lost you? Or do you understand our confusion and our question?? Thank you!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      You didn’t lose me only because I’ve left a trail of breadcrumbs specifically for paths involving Stanford policies. Your son does not need to report US History. Your reading is correct in that the “all scores” applies to the SAT Reasoning and ACT. Colleges mean well when they construct their policies, but they don’t always think through student concerns.

  • EunJee says:

    Hello~ I have a quick question about the SAT subject tests and score reporting 🙂
    I would like to take advantage of the free four colleges send of when you sign up for the SAT. I have already taken the SAT, and a couple SAT 2 tests (Math 2, Chem, and soon Korean) and have decent but not perfect scores. I am planning on taking the Spanish SAT 2 test much later in the year, and I was wondering would that mean the “free four college sends” that I send now (not including the Spanish SAT2 test) be meaningless since my future Spanish SAT 2 test wasn’t sent with it? In other words, would I need to send future score reports to the same schools I sent them to now since it did not include the Spanish SAT 2 test?

    Thank you for your time and your wonderful article~

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Score reports only include test scores as of the relevant test date. So, yes, you would need to send future score reports if you want colleges to have your Spanish score. Keep in mind, though, that you also receive four free reports when you sign up for the Subject Tests (for example, when you take Spanish). One problem with using the free (“included” is probably the better word, since you are paying to take the test) reports is that you will not have the opportunity to review your scores. In order to use Score Choice, you will need to pay for additional reports.

  • Ron says:


    My niece showed up today (Nov.5th) to take the chinese language and listening test but forgot to bring her CD player and was turned away. She needs this test score to apply to two of her top choices. The SAT site says that the test is only given in November but there must be another option for a kid who made a mistake on this test day. Can anything be done? We are willing to travel anywheres to make this happen. Any help of suggestions would be very helpful.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’m so sorry for your niece. That must be quite distressing for her. Unfortunately, I know of no testing fallback for your niece. Makeup test days are sometimes available, but these involve test center closings (a fire, road closures, etc.). There is no provision for an individual student to take a makeup exam. There are also no other dates for the Chinese ST. I would call College Board (even if you have already called them) and throw yourself at the mercy of the court. See if they can find a test center that did need to schedule a makeup and beg to be allowed to go there. They’ll likely deny the request, which is why the need for begging.

      College admission offices tend to be more understanding than the College Board. I would contact her top choices and see what they can do. A number of colleges do allow students to skip Subject Tests in the event of financial hardship or the lack of a test center. While it would be better to have a Subject Test result, the lack of one may not disqualify her. Explain the situation and see what they are willing to do.

  • Mustafa says:

    I recently applied for my SAT Subject tests and instead of thinking about it and then deciding i rushed to applying for all 3 of my maths, physics and chemistry tests on the same day.
    Now i want to change the date for my chemistry and physics test and i was wondering that how do i do it? Like all the three tests are imprinted on the same tickets so if i change the tests dates for 2, what will happen to the third one? Like if i go ahead and change my test dates it lest me choose which tests do i want on the new date but i am worried that it will cancel my 3rd test that i wanna take on the same previous date! Any idea, please help me with this i have less than a week now!

    • Art Sawyer says:

      As far as I know, you will not be able to accomplish exactly what you want to do — at least not without paying additional fees. The first thing to keep in mind is that you are not obligated to take the tests for which you signed up, and you are not limited to taking those tests. If registration fees are not a concern, then the simplest solution is to sign up for the new date for Chemistry and Physics. When you show up next week, simply take the math test of your choice. Colleges will not receive a report of you having “skipped” chem and physics. You won’t receive a refund of your fees, but there is no other downside. I’m not sure if College Board will allow you to get any sort of fee recovery by moving two of the tests to a new date. At minimum, you’ll have to pay the basic registration fees. I would recommend trying to call College Board about your very specific case.

  • Dan says:

    I just received my SAT subject test scores and they were disappointing in that they were 610 in English and 680 in Math2. I have a 4.2 GPA, I’m an IB diploma student and have a 33 on my ACT. Will these low SAT subject scores jeopardize my chances at 2 highly selective schools on my short list? How important is it for me to take them again? I have an interview for my top choice school (a Military Academy that does not require these scores) that conflicts with a re-take this weekend. I have already had two interviews for a nomination, should I take the SAT subject tests again or go to the congressional interview? The interview is only offered this one day.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I apologize for the delay in replying to you. I’m afraid that part of your situation — nominations and appointments to the military academies — falls outside of my area of expertise. I would hate for you to miss an important opportunity at your top choice school. Let me present a few things regarding Subject Tests. Your scores are low relative to the typical Subject Test scores seen at the most highly selective schools. You might consider a few questions:
      1) Do the 2 highly selective colleges REQUIRE Subject Tests?
      2) Do those colleges allow for the ACT in lieu of Subject Tests?
      3) Do you feel that you will bring up your scores substantially with a retake (700’s or even 750+)?

      Depending on your answers, you may want to consider not submitting Subject Test scores.

  • Will says:


    I took three SAT IIs for the first time today. Of the schools I’m applying to, Harvard and Cornell require two SAT IIs, and Northwestern strongly recommends the same.

    I felt okay, but not great, on the tests I took today: Math II, Lit, and Physics. Based on my own predictions from estimated raw scores, I scored between the 80th and 90th percentiles for all three.

    When opting to have these scores sent immediately (before I see them), should I send all three scores (to Harvard, Cornell, and Northwestern)? I have heard varied opinions online on whether this is a good or a bad idea. Will they primarily consider my two highest scores? (Also, Cornell doesn’t participate in normal SAT Score Choice. Is anyone aware of their policies for SAT II Score Choice? Otherwise, I’ll call admissions.)

    Harvard permits January SAT testing, however, so this would seem to indicate that I could wait until I get my scores on December 22 and then choose the two strongest scores to send to them. Would this be advisable?

    Likewise, would it be useful to send the two strongest scores to other schools I’m applying to (Columbia, Brown, Vanderbilt) where SAT IIs are considered, even if I’m sending them past the deadline? Or would their lateness nullify any contribution they might have to my application?

    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      It’s tempting to get your scores first, but I generally recommend against that for December testing. Delays can happen, mistakes can be made. When faced with 3 Subject Test scores, most colleges will consider the strongest scores. Cornell does ask for all Subject Test scores, because “this allows our selection committee to review the scores that are most supportive to your application. It is to your advantage to send all scores!” If you think that you are in danger of having one of the scores considerably lower than the others, the risk of waiting may be worthwhile for Harvard and Northwestern. It’s better to think in terms of scores rather than percentiles, because the population taking the 3 tests is varied. For the schools you are applying to, you’ll want Subject Test scores over 700 (over 750 is better, of course). I don’t know the policies for Columbia, Brown, and Vanderbilt, but many colleges will add information to your application as long as you submitted a full application by the deadline and as long as your application has not yet been considered. Strong scores can help your testing portfolio.

  • Jim says:


    I have sent my daughters’s Nov 5, SAT and her May 7, Chem SAT to the schools she is applying. She was scheduled for the Dec 3, 2016, SAT as well. I have been told that the Dec 3, SAT scores need to be automatically sent to ensure they arrive on time. When I used score choice, I was allowed to select the Nov and May scores. The Dec SAT had not been administered yet but was checked off to be sent (don’t think I could change, appeared to be grayed out). The SAT score report invoice indicates “University of (insert school) will receive SOME (they capitalized some) of your scores”. Under selected tests it lists the Nov SAT with he score, the May Chem SAT with her score and the Dec SAT with “Scores NOT Available” under the Dec SAT “Subjects & Scores”. Does this indicate that the Nov and May SAT scores are in the process of being sent and the Dec SAT will be automatically sent, with no further action from me, when available.


    • Art Sawyer says:

      It sounds like you did everything correctly. Score Choice is only applicable once scores are available. I agree that it is best not to risk missing a deadline just to see the December scores before you send them. Most colleges superscore the SAT, and some of the ones that do not require all scores be sent (so delay is pointless). I believe that your scores will be sent without further action.

  • steve says:


    I took the math II subject test as a sophomore today. I forgot the law of cosines, and consequentially missed 2 questions. After reviewing a lot of the questions i think that there is 1 more that i might have miss-bubbled. I am definitely going into something math-related in college and i am aiming for top schools, with the ones that dont exercise college choice as options as of now. I am really scared that i might have missed a few more, and have gotten a 780-790.

    Should i cancel my score and retake the test just in case?

    Should i wait for the score? If i do, and get a 780, for example, i would take it again and most likely get an 800 (wasn’t too prepared for the question types on this test). Would it look bad that i took it twice in that scenario?

    Please tell me what you think

    Should i wait for the score and then decide?

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Cancelling would be a big mistake. There is essentially no risk with Subject Test scores, as Score Choice is always an option. Second, it is extremely unlikely that a school would be swayed by am 800 versus 780. Third, if you cancel your scores, you’ll never find out how you really did. If you do get a 780 or 790, I would normally recommend against retaking, but that’s a personal decision.

  • Mark says:

    Happy Holidays!

    I had some questions, now that Dec 2016 Subject Test scores are in (have to decide if to send, by this coming week).

    My Background:
    ACT: 35 composite, GPA: 3.4, Strong EC and strong essays
    ACT: 36 on Reading / English, 34 science, 33 math
    Aiming for Ivies, Stanford, Duke, etc.

    Subject Tests from the sittings, in this order:
    1. Math 2: 690 / History 620
    2. Math 2: 750 / Literature 600
    3. Math 2: 700 / Literature 630

    So, here are my questions:
    1. For schools (like Princeton) that “recommend, but don’t require subject tests”:
    Option A: Don’t send any subject test scores, and let the ACT and other aspects of my application speak for themselves.
    Option B: Just send the Math 750 score as Lit / History are too low. If so, is it strange to only send one score?
    Note: As ACT Math score was lowest (33), could think that I took Math II only (no other subjects) to show proficiency? Does 750 math do the trick vis-a-vis 33 on ACT math?
    Option C: Send Math 750 and Literature 630 OR Math 750 and Literature 600 (as from the same sitting)

    2. Schools that don’t allow score choice and “recommend, but don’t require” (like Stanford):
    Option A: Don’t sent any, as they would see all the scores, and that would be bad…
    Option B: I don’t think there is one? 🙂

    Thanks for your advice!

    PS: Tutoring with Compass was fantastic for the ACT (Ryan for Math, Kate for English/writing)

    • Art Sawyer says:

      Given how strong your ACT scores are, I think sending either your History or Lit scores would be a net negative. While your Math 2 score is good, I’m not sure that it significantly improves your testing portfolio (whereas it could create the question mark that you identify in B). Your 33 Math is not exactly weak. I would choose option A for both sets of schools.

      That’s great! I’m glad that Ryan and Kate were able to work well for you.

  • Mark Chapwick says:

    A quick follow-up (and thanks so much for you help!):

    A school counselor said that the 750 in Math II would show a “high level of proficiency in upper level math” – helpful given that I won’t have an AP Calculus score until June (taking B/C now, and will have my first B in High School). We all agree that the Literature / History stays off the books… she also seems to think they don’t have time to think down a path like “hmm, I wonder why he didn’t take a 2nd subject test…” they simply look at what is presented to them.

    Does her argument sway you at all, or would you still advise the Option B (Don’t send any scores to anyone)?

    As an aside, Penn says for applicants to the Business School that the Math II test is the only one “recommended”, so they probably would be fine with just that test… the other schools say two tests, but all tests are recommended, not required…

    Oh the things to stress over before X-mas!
    Thanks again for your advice.

    • Art Sawyer says:

      I’m usually of the opinion that a tie goes to the counselor (or to the way you feel most comfortable, since it is your app!), and I don’t think there is a strong difference between the remaining options. My disagreement with the counselor — to the extent that there is one — is small on both sides of the equation. I’d expect someone with your ACT scores to have a 700+ M2, so I’m not sure how much new information the score really provides. While it’s true that students can get too wrapped up in worrying about all the ways admission officers might interpret every little thing, I think there is some truth to the notion that Subject Test scores work better as a team. Wharton is a good example, though, of where M2 would clearly be a plus. It settles any potential question marks around whether or not you can handle a math-intensive curriculum. Take the night (or day) to think about it, go with the option you feel best about, and then let go of the stress. Once we put aside the Lit/History question, I think the remaining options are a coin toss.

  • Mark Chapwick says:


    I am applying to an Ivy that has a Dual Degree program (Business & Engineering). They say the process is you select the Dual Degree program as your “primary choice”, and then select a single degree choice (like Business) as your secondary choice. You are prompted to write specific essays for each.

    1. Their FAQ section says that choosing the Dual Degree program does not affect your chances of acceptance into the Single Degree – that if you get denied in the Dual Degree program (which is very likely in my case I predict), the Single Degree options “can only provide you with back-up options” (in their words)… Unlike Michigan, where you are first accepted into the Liberal Arts college, and THEN they review the request for the special program (Ross), this Ivy does it the other way around it seems.
    Question: Do you think that applying to the Dual Degree program has any influence, positive or negative on your application to the Single Degree school (the traditional way to apply), or do they truly keep these two decisions completely separate (like admissions officers from each program only see what is submitted for that specific program)?
    For example, would the Single Degree admissions-review people see the Dual Degree request / essay, and say, “He may not have made it into that highly selective program, but at least he tried and his essays were great, so we’re going to score him a bit higher than he would have been for our Single Degree school”, or would they not even see the essays from the Dual Degree part of the application?

    Another way to look at this, is, if my FIRST choice is really the single degree option at the school, does applying for the Dual Degree program have a positive or negative effect on my chances to get accepted to the single degree option?

    Thanks again for your help.

  • Mark Chapwick says:

    Hi Again,
    Do schools like Dartmouth consider the major / school you choose when they make their admissions decision? For example, I like one of their modified majors in the Engineering school, however I think my application is stronger from the lenses of a liberal arts perspective. Should I apply to a degree like Economics (adding some engineering courses as electives) as this would meet my career goals, and would give me a better chance of getting accepted to the school, or, do schools like Dartmouth first accept you, and then look at what school (Engineering or Arts / Sciences) you want to go to after that? Another way to look at it: is it possible that they could say, “we would have accepted him if he had applied to a liberal arts major, however he applied to an engineering program and doesn’t meet our standards so he is denied from the school?”

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