What’s a Good SAT Subject Test Score?

By April 2, 2019 April 16th, 2019 SAT Subject Tests


Judging performance on Subject Tests can be confusing for students. While most colleges release SAT and ACT score data, almost none regularly provide Subject Test scores. By combining data from College Board with current and historical data from colleges, Compass has come up with advice on how parents and students can assess Subject Test results and make effective testing decisions.

If a college requires Subject Tests, then your decision is made for you. Most colleges, though, have changed their Subject Test policies to “recommend” or “consider.” In these cases, you need to evaluate how Subject Tests add or detract from your testing portfolio.

Compare your scores to your SAT or ACT scores.
The simplest rule of thumb is to shoot for Subject Test scores that match or better your SAT section scores. If, for example, you scored a 710 ERW / 700 Math, then Subject Test scores above 700 should improve your testing portfolio. When assessing your Math Level 1 or Math Level 2 score, it’s best to compare it to your SAT Math score. If you achieved a 750 SAT Math score, a 700 Math 2 score is unlikely to do you any favors. If you took the ACT, you can use a concordance to help with the comparison.

Don’t get hung up on percentiles.
Unfortunately, students are often drawn to percentiles when judging Subject Test performance, and percentiles happen to be extremely flawed measures. The pool of students choosing Subject Tests is small and skews toward high scorers. The pool of test takers also varies dramatically across the different subjects.

Subject Test percentiles are not comparable to SAT percentiles.
Students accustomed to achieving very high percentile ranks can be deflated by Subject Test percentiles, even when they shouldn’t be. For example, a student scoring a 1500 on the SAT would be in the 99th percentile. She might be disappointed, then, to find out that her 750 Chemistry score is 72nd percentile. In fact, she shouldn’t be surprised. The Chemistry test is taken by other students like her — very good testers who are particularly good at Chemistry. Her 750 is not a drag on her testing portfolio, and she should submit it.

Subject Test percentiles are not comparable across subjects.
A 680 in Literature and 770 in Math 2 are both reported as 67th percentile, but they are not equivalent. The simplest way of looking at the scores also happens to be the most accurate — the Math 2 score is 90 points higher and is the better score. The pool of students taking the Math 2 exam is more exclusive than that of those taking Literature. The average SAT Math score among Math 2 takers is 720. The average SAT section score for Literature students is approximately 660. The difference in Subject Test scores does not indicate that one test is easier or harder than the other; it is more of a reflection of the skill and preparation of the test takers.

Compare your scores to the 25th-75th percentile ranks of SAT scores at your target schools.
“Good scores” only have meaning in the context of college choice. At schools where most applicants submit scores, Subject Test scores will roughly align with SAT scores. If Alma Mater College’s 25th-75th percentile range of SAT scores is 680-760 ERW and 680-760 Math, then its Subject Tests scores will not be far off.

Given the testing portfolio below, what should the applicant to Alma Mater College do?

His Subject Test scores are in line with his SAT scores, so that box is checked. However, his scores are at the low end of the 25th-75th range. Test scores, in other words, are not his strength relative to other applicants. Providing Subject Test results may actually hurt him by doubling down on a weak part of his application. He might be applying to other colleges, though, where the exact opposite is true. His SAT and Subject Test scores might put him in the upper range of applicants, and submitting all of his scores would be helpful. Context matters, so consider the college and the program to which you are applying.

It’s perfectly natural to have one of your scores be higher than the other.
Not every score can be your highest. When UCLA used to report its applicant and enrollee Subject Test scores, it provided insight into how students’ scores matched up. On average, a student’s best score was 60 points higher than the second best.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to display a strength just because Subject Tests are not required.
It makes sense that as fewer colleges require Subject Tests fewer students take the exams. But some students are missing out on an opportunity to highlight their strengths. Compared to just seven years ago, 50% fewer students achieve a 750-800 in Literature and U.S. History. If performance in literature and history were really on the decline, we would have seen this in AP scores. The more likely explanation is that many students have decided to pass up the Subject Test opportunity.

Think about skipping the exams if you are not within striking range of a 700.
None of the 15 U.S. colleges requiring or recommending Subject Tests has average SAT scores below 700 on either the ERW or Math sections. Two-thirds of the schools have average Math scores above 750! Given this landscape, Subject Test scores below 700 rarely add to a student’s testing portfolio.

Of the more than 500,000 Subject Tests taken last year, over 200,000 resulted in scores at or above 700. Approximately 135,000 of those were at 750 or above. At highly competitive institutions, in other words, you need very strong Subject Test scores to positively distinguish yourself. While there are situations where a lower score might be useful, they are limited. Approximately 135,000 scores last year were 600 or below. Students taking those tests would likely have been better served focusing on their SAT and ACT scores.

Your endpoint is not the same as your starting point.
As with any college admission test, preparation can raise scores. Just because an initial practice test or a result from an earlier year is low doesn’t mean that you should throw in the towel. You should, however, be realistic about your goals.

Use Score Choice except where absolutely prohibited.
In virtually all cases, colleges will use your best two scores and will take your better score if you repeat a subject. Score Choice gives you even more control, since you can release only the scores you want to reveal. At the time of this writing, Compass believes that Georgetown is the only college that does not allow Score Choice for Subject Tests. It’s also the only college that recommends 3 Subject Tests.

Are 200-800 scores identical to the 200-800 scores on the SAT?
Not really, but it can be a convenient shorthand. When Subject Tests — they’ve been called Achievement Tests and SAT IIs over the years — were created, the SAT scores of test takers were used to help calibrate the scales appropriately. What our research has shown is that, with the exception of foreign language exams, the old SAT scores of test takers were closely matched with Subject Test scores. [See our archived post for more detail.] Students taking Chemistry, for example, achieved an average score of 666. Those same students have an average section score of 663 on the old SAT.

This relationship was useful to College Board in setting the scales of tests such as Math Level 1 and Math Level 2. Students taking both the old SAT and the Math 1 Subject Test saw similar results on the two exams. They averaged 628 on the old SAT Math section and 619 on the Subject Test. While more difficult than Math 1 and taken by a more skilled pool of students, Math 2 results showed the same alignment. Students averaged a 693 on the Subject Test and 690 on the old SAT Math section.

Then things got weird. The new SAT changed many of the rules by redefining the 200-800 scale, eliminating the guessing penalty, and even changing how percentile ranks were calculated. The correlation between SAT and Subject Test scores still holds, it’s just that we need to think of new SAT scores as “inflated.” In the typical 600-800 range of Subject Test takers, a section score on the new SAT went up about 30 points versus the old SAT. The Math 2 students who averaged 690 on the old SAT now average 720 on the new SAT.

Below is a chart of the relationship between average SAT section scores and average Subject Test scores. The points don’t follow the line exactly, but most Subject Test scores are 20-40 points below the average test takers’ comparable SAT scores.

World History is a significant outlier. The test material doesn’t align neatly with high school coursework, and it is challenging to achieve a high score. Foreign language tests are not included here because the SAT score alone is a poor predictor. Some tests, such as Chinese and Korean, are taken primarily by native speakers. Others, such as French and Spanish, are taken by a mix of native speakers and those learning the languages in high school.

If Subject Test scores are 20-40 points lower, on average, than SAT scores, why does Compass recommend test takers try to at least reach their SAT scores?
Subject Test takers average 2.5 exams during their high school careers. Many high-scoring students take three or four exams. Since most colleges only ask for two Subject Tests, and since students will submit their best two, average reported scores are higher than the average of all received scores. Low scores can be hidden through the power of Score Choice. This leads to the advice that Subject Test scores above your SAT scores are far more likely to improve your testing portfolio than those below.

The tables below provide a summary of current Subject Test data. The mean Subject Test scores are compared to the average SAT section score of test takers. In the case of the Math Level 1 and Level 2 exams, the SAT Math score is the better proxy. The number of test takers is shown along with the number of students scoring at or below 600, at or above 700, and at or above 750. These figures give context to how many students already perform well on these exams and how many might consider taking a pass.

SubjectSubject Test
SAT Score
Test Takers<=600>=700>=750
U.S. History64567552,99516,95819,0789,009
World History61868314,0185,8874,0652,102
Math Level 161965145,74520,58511,8933,659
Math Level 2690721141,95128,39078,07356,780
Chinese w/Listening759N/A4,1052053,6123,201
French w/Listening666N/A1,037290487352
German w/Listening636N/A36515612462
Modern Hebrew608N/A31114611590
Japanese w/Listening694N/A967174647483
Korean w/Listening768N/A1,761701,5671,391
Spanish w/Listening665N/A1,757474790456



Art Sawyer

About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.


  • Avatar Laura says:

    Hi Art,
    Thank you for the great articles. Very impressed by your replies to questions.

    My daughter is a junior. She got 800 in SAT math 2, physics and bio-M, but her world history is only 720 due to lack of practice. She got 5 on her AP world history (also all other APs so far: calc BC, physics C, human geography). She hasn’t taken sat 1 or ACT yet and plan to take sat 1 in Nov or Dec.
    She plans to apply for some highly selective colleges, with an interest in STEM or medicine or business. What do you recommend for the following 2 questions?

    A: about taking subject test
    1. Retake world history soon. We are sure that she will improve if retake, as she had little time to prepare last time. But she plans to take Sat 1 in Nov or Dec, so not sure if this will be an extra burden. But the preparation time probably is less than doing the next option.
    2. Not retake world history, but take US history after she finishes it this year, so that she has a subject on humanity.
    3. Not take any more subject test

    B: Assuming she doesn’t retake, do we send the world history score (720) to schools? Does the 720 do a disservice to her given that she has a 5 on ap world and an A from her class?

    Thank you.

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      1) Do not have her retake World History. It is her fourth ST, so it’s largely irrelevant. It’s a great score for a fourth test. It’s not an easy test to prep for.
      2) Having a humanities ST on her record is not essential. If the test date for U.S. History works for her, then she can take it. Given her existing scores, I don’t think I’d bother.
      3) I’m tempted to go for this answer. Most students would trade a birthday to have three 800s and a 720.
      B) I would still send it. Most colleges are not going to care about a fourth test, but as mentioned above, it’s a good score for a fourth exam. You won’t go wrong either way given the strength of your daughter’s scores.

  • Avatar hannah says:

    Hi Art,
    I am aiming mainly for top 10 universities, probably to study english, music, or mathematics & philosophy, and have taken 4 Subject Tests, getting a 730 in Math II, 790 in Literature, 760 in Biology, and a 690 in World History.
    As I am homeschooled, I thought it would be a good idea to take a diverse array of subject tests, but do you think it makes sense to send in my 690 in World history?
    Would it hurt my chances at an Ivy?

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      You are correct that presenting a diverse array of scores is particularly important for homeschooled students. I would go ahead and include the 690 in your case. A) It’s your 4th Subject Test, and most schools will care about the top 2. B) The more you can quantify your achievements as a homeschooler, the better.

  • Avatar Pamela says:

    With the IVY and similar caliber schools all drifting toward subject tests being options (each school having its own language) are students that do not submit subject tests gaining admission? I have heard that if your child attends a high school where many of the students tend to take subject tests that college admissions teams will weight that against your child’s application if they don’t submit subject subject tests. What are you hearing? Are SAT Subject tests really optional? Many thanks for your insights.

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      Colleges have not wanted to lose out on talented students who have not taken Subject Tests. They’ve found, in particular, that a 100% requirement is an obstacle to diversity initiatives. We find that the majority of applicants to the most selective colleges still submit Subject Test scores. Not providing Subject Test scores can be a disadvantage in two ways. 1) An admission officer may, as you say, think it suspicious that Subject Test scores are missing. 2) An applicant is competing against thousands of other applicants who are presenting top-notch scores.

      Student A has a 750 ERW and 750 M. Student B has 750 ERW, 750 M, 800 Math 2, 760 Bio, and 730 Literature. All things equal, Student B has a more compelling testing portfolio. The elimination of an absolute Subject Test requirement is a good thing, but students should not confuse this with “Subject Tests don’t matter.”

  • Avatar steve says:

    Hi Art,

    My son did well on his math and chemistry, perfect and 760, respectively. Which meets his requirement of 2 subject test. He is trying to take French and American Literature, instead of his bio and physics which he is top % on. Does the STEM or non-STEM subject areas matters to the top schools?

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      If he is applying for an engineering or other STEM program, I’d encourage Bio or Physics. But with his Math and Chemistry scores, he is already in good shape. Outside of certain science programs, it’s the score levels that will matter. Don’t get too hung up on percentiles. It’s not easy to post a high score in French.

  • Avatar SG says:

    My daughter only took the ACT, didn’t take the SAT so harder to understand her Subject Test results. Do I have this math approximately correct? Math/Science on ACT 32 = SAT Math 710 = SAT Math 2 Subject Test 730?

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      I think that’s a fair approximation. The official ACT Math to SAT Math concordance is 32 to 720. There is no set relationship between SAT scores and Math 2 scores, but students submitting Math 2 scores have usually done better than they did on the SAT Math.

  • Avatar Sandy says:

    Hi Art,
    My son is starting his senior year and has 1570 on his SAT. He has taken SAT 2 subject tests in US History (800), Math 2 (790), Physics(740), and literature (720). He wants to go to Columbia university. Should he submit all his Sat 2 subject scores or omit the lower scores?

  • Avatar CH says:

    My daughter’s SAT is 1510 (790M, 720EBRW). She is a rising senior interested in a STEM-related major. At the end of 10th grade, she took two subject tests (730 Math 2, 690 Chemistry). At the end of 11th grade, she registered for two subject tests (790 Math 2, passed on Biology due to limited studying and poor practice tests). She is adamant that she will not retake any more testing. Q1: For schools on her list where subject tests are “recommended” and/or “considered,” does she submit a) both Math 2 and Chemistry scores, b) only the Math 2 score, or c) neither? Thanks.

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      I would not submit the scores to colleges that “consider” Subject Test scores. You would want to have scores that boost your daughter’s testing profile, and I don’t think the 790/690 do that. It wouldn’t hurt to provide the Math 2. It’s harder to provide advice for schools that recommend scores. In most cases, I would recommend against submitting her Chem score and would let the rest of her application sell her STEM abilities. If a school has average SAT scores in the 1400 range, then submitting Chemistry might be of value.

  • Avatar SM says:

    Hello Mr. Art,
    Loved your article! Very helpful to understand the various options. My daughter is a rising sophomore and she scored 750 – World History ; Bio-E – 710 and Math Level 2 subject test – 620. She is very disappointed by her Math score and wants to re-take Math Level 2 in August. She also wants to improve her Bio score. She scored 4 in her AP Bio and 5 in AP World History exams. Her 10th grade subjects will be AP Chemistry, AP French, AP American History, AP Calculus, American Literature (Honors). She is interested in medicine and feels confident she can improve her scores. What is your recommendation on her re-taking only Math Level 2 in August versus taking both Math and Bio-E??

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      Thank you, SM!

      As a rising sophomore, your daughter has plenty of options. Her Bio is unlikely to get any fresher, so if she wants to improve it, sooner is better. While she’ll have other opportunities to raise her Math 2 score, I’m sure the 620 is gnawing at her. One thing I like about Subject Tests is that they afford students a say in how many tests to take and in what order. My personal recommendation would be to start her day with Math 2. As long as she is not feeling spent, I’d have her then take Bio-E. That way Bio doesn’t get in the way of Math, but she still has an opportunity to raise her 710. College Board doesn’t refund test fees if a student opts out of a scheduled Subject Test, but there is no non-financial penalty for passing on a test.

  • Avatar Michelle says:

    Hi Art: Terrific article! Question about my daughter. She is applying to Top 10 schools, has a 1580 SAT (790, 790), 4.0 GPA and six AP tests (including 5’s in BC Calc, Bio, US Government, Eng Language, Psych and a 4 in Chem). Her SAT Subject tests are Bio-E (750), Chem (750), and Math II (740). She was pretty burned out when she took the Chem and Math-II, so she could probably do better if she had more time to study. But she is busy with college apps and all the other fun stuff required of a rising Senior. Do you think she should retake one or more of the SAT Subject tests, or does her application as a whole look like she’s done enough on the academic side? Thanks so much!!

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      She has a really strong testing portfolio even without retesting. She is penalized a bit because some colleges will look at a student’s best two Subject Tests. She is not rewarded for her consistency in those cases.

      Having good scores already on file can be liberating. There is little to lose — other than the test fees and some time — in retesting. Schedule an August or October test date with a plan to retest. Don’t obsess about lots of added study. Be willing to simply back out if things get too crazy. It can be hard for excellent students such as your daughter to feel like they are taking a test “unprepared,” but I’m willing to bet that she can at least bring up her Math 2 without much additional work.

  • Avatar Priya says:

    My daughter is a rising junior, she is hoping to get recruited for a sport at either top d3 schools(Uchicago, emory, washu, cornell) or top lacs(Amherst/Swarthmore/Williams).
    She took ap us history test and has a 5 in it but her subject sat US history score is 670. She is planning to take ACT/SAT over the next few months and Math 2 subject test.
    Is this 670 score any good at these schools, they do accept little lower scores for athletes but not sure if we should just report her ap score and not subject test score or report both.

    She may apply to Georgetown which requires multiple subject tests, is it OK to use this as one of the scores.

    Retaking may not be option as she needs to work on other tests.

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      The number of schools requiring Subject Tests has plummeted in recent years. Among the schools you mention, only Cornell still requires Subject Tests — and even there it is not for all programs. [It is true that there are colleges such as Georgetown where the “recommended” really means “required,” but even that is growing lesson common.] For me, the question is whether your daughter’s 670 raises or lowers the quality of her test portfolio. Since she hasn’t taken the ACT/SAT yet, we don’t really know. For example, if she gets a 1460 SAT score, I’d consider the US History score to be a drag on her application. If she gets a 1200, the reverse would be true. In isolation, a 670 doesn’t help a student at the schools you mention, because most applicants will have done better.

      You are correct that different standards apply to recruited athletes. Generally what coaches and admission offices are going to be looking at, though, are your daughter’s SAT or ACT scores. Those will be far more important than her US History score.

  • Avatar Amie says:

    Hey Mr Art!
    I gave the Math Level 2 on JUne 1 ( I am International) and got a 770 on it. I have 1460 on my SAT . Would that be good enough to get into Carnegie mellon , or University Of wisconsin Madison , UCs (santa barbara , irvine and davis) , Penn State University or NYU for Computer Engineering or Computer Science ??

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      “Good enough” questions are hard to answer. Are those scores good enough in the sense of, “Do students with those scores get accepted?” Yes. Are the scores good enough in the sense of, “Will I get accepted based on those scores?” No (but that’s true of any scores). Spots for international students can be particularly competitive. I would not worry about trying to improve a 770 Math 2 score. I don’t think the scales will be tipped because you get an 800 versus a 770. As I just mentioned to another commenter, engineering programs like to see strength in math AND science. That strength can be demonstrated in ways other than Subject Test scores, of course, but Subject Tests are a handy scorecard for international students.

  • Avatar pam says:

    My daughter has a 740 math and 780 English super score SAT. She just today received her US History subject score which is 730. Based on your article and Q&A I think you are going to tell her she should retake the exam? But that gaining points on the US History exam is challenging. Here is a little more background on her and the related subject test challenge. She is a rising senior. Her GPA is 97 with a challenging course load. She has taken 3 AP exams and scored all 5s. Next year she will continue with her challenging course load taking AP Lit, AP Calc, AP Economics, AP Bio, Spanish 4 and Latin 3. She will have strong teacher recommendations and has ample awards, leadership and volunteering. She does want to apply to the best Universities but is worried about subject tests. She has run cold on bio and chem as she took those in 9th and 10th grades and at her school the AP classes for bio and chem are not available until senior year – and that’s too late. She is not a natural “mathy” and does not want to take the math subject test as she thinks it will be difficult to achieve a 740 or higher. That leaves her with US History and Lit. And maybe Spanish. Thoughts?

    By the way, you have best article and comments out there on subject tests – thank you!

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      It’s confusing enough for students to deal with SATs, ACTs, and APs. Then Subject Tests come along and really make things crazy. The good news is that fewer colleges than ever require Subject Tests. If your daughter is not able to put up two great Subject Test scores, she is still going to have a great record. And many students would be happy with a 730.

      If you daughter weren’t looking at another Subject Test sitting, I’d tell her not to retake U.S. History. But if she does want to get in a second subject, my suggestion would be to go ahead and spend the extra hour re-taking U.S. History. She really has nothing to lose (although don’t get me started on Georgetown and its ALL SCORES policy). College Board has released tests in all subjects, so she can always see how she might do in Lit, Spanish, Math, etc.

  • Avatar HS says:

    My daughter received 760 on the sat 2 subject test. She is planning to apply to engineering at good colleges like Cornell, Berkeley, cmu, and Georgia tech. Do you recommend that she retake the test?

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      You don’t mention what subject, although I suspect you are referring to Math 2. There are a couple of things to consider. First, top engineering programs like to see a strong math score and a strong science score. If she has only one or the other, then retesting would allow her to shoot for better than a 760 while also adding another subject. By itself, a 760 Math is unlikely to hurt her, but it would be better in the company of a high science score.

      • Avatar HS says:

        Thank you for your answer. I was referring to math 2. She is going to be a sophomore so she only took math 2 so far. She will be taking another science sat subject test after learning it at school. We are just wondering whether she should retake the math 2 subject test in August ( she just finished honors pre calculus) given the colleges she wants to apply in engineering.

        • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

          Ah, that makes sense. She should definitely retake the Math 2 when she takes additional Subject Tests. If she already has a 770 (!), I’m sure that she can get that to an 800.

  • Avatar Catherine says:


    My son got 1580 (790 Reading/Writing, 790 Math). His took Math 2 and got 800, but his second subject Chemistry was 750. He is aiming for few Ivy schools. Do you recommend that he retake the Chemistry SAT?



    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      I rarely recommend a retest for a 750 Subject Test score. I could see an exception if (a) your son thinks he can do better and can spare the time and (b) he is applying to extremely competitive STEM schools/programs such as CalTech/MIT or a BS/MD program. A higher Chem score is just not going to be a differentiating factor in the majority of cases. His testing portfolio is already quite strong.

  • Avatar Ashley says:

    Hi Art,

    My daughter scored 1510 on the SAT ( R/W 710 and Math 800). She just took the SAT subject Math 2 and USH yesterday. She does not feel as confident as she had hoped for. What kind of score that she needs to get to improve or at least not to hurt her testing porfolio?
    Thank you

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      If she is applying to the most competitive programs, I’d want to see scores at or near 750+ (at least on average). For example, 710/710 on the Subject Tests will not do her any favors unless the college requires STs. She can repeat her Subject Tests, of course.

  • Avatar CK says:

    Hello Art,
    My daughter who is finishing her junior year scored a 1550 on the SAT (770 E, 780 M) with an 800 on the Math 2 SAT II and a 780 on the US Hist SAT II. She intends on majoring in Bio in college and scored a 770 (86%) on the SAT II Bio(M) and is disappointed in that score. Should she be? Would you recommend that she send that score in as she is applying to Ivy league schools? She is a competitive athlete so is unable to retake the test unless she cancels a tournament. Would you recommend she retake the Bio(M) SAT II test?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      She should absolutely submit her Bio score. She may be personally disappointed, but that’s not the same thing as hurting her chances. It is a third subject AND is a 770. There is no requirement that you get an 800 in the subject you plan to study in college.

  • Avatar Blake says:

    Hey Art,

    Thanks for all you do! I scored an 1470 on the SAT: (R/W 700) and (M 770). I also scored a 750 on Math II and a 790 on Chem. I’m only going to apply to one ivy but a few other selective schools. Should I send the subject tests to the ivy or the selective schools respectively (they are all optional)?

  • Avatar Michael says:


    My son scored 760 (EBRW) and 740 (Math) on the SAT.
    But his SAT II Subject tests were 720 (Math 2)(63rd percentile); 760 (Biology E) (80th percentile) and 720 (Spanish)(67th percentile)(Not a native speaker).
    Should he retake any of the subject tests? If he is interested in a Top-10 school, should he not send the subject tests?



    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      I’d consider a retake on Math 2. With a bit of study, students can usually refresh skills or fill in gaps. It is usually easier to gain points there than, say, on U.S. History or Lit. Almost all schools will look at his highest performances — and Score Choice is available, too — so there is no reason who couldn’t retry Bio and Spanish, especially if he is still studying Spanish. His current scores are in a toss-up area. If he can present 2 scores at or above 50, then I would definitely recommend sending scores.

  • Avatar Sandy says:

    Hi Art – Looking for a 3rd subject test for Georgetown. My daughter currently has 1570 superscore and I’m pretty confident she can do well on math 2 and bio subject tests. If she takes German and only scores a 650, will that really hurt her chances? Thanks!

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      It’s not something that can be quantified, because the admission process isn’t so neat. It would be wonderful if she scored a 750 on German, but a 650 is not going to eliminate her from contention. Test scores are not the most important part of an application. Subject Test scores are less important than SAT scores. The third Subject Test score is the least important Subject Test score. Almost all students sees lower scores in their third subject, and it is hard for students to show a 700+ score in a foreign language studied only in high school.

      Has your daughter explored other areas? U.S. History? Chemistry? Literature? If German is her best option for a third test, all she can do is stay optimistic — and perhaps fit in a bit of preparation. At all non-Georgetown schools, she’ll be evaluated on her two best subjects.

      • Avatar Sandy says:

        Thank you, Art! She took AP World in 10th and will take AP US in 12th, so timing isn’t great for one of those. She’s terrified of the Chemistry one and I’ve heard that Lit is very tough, too. I appreciate your reply.

  • Avatar Catherine says:

    Hello, Art,

    My son got 800 on the Math 2 subject SAT. Since subject SAT score percentile range is pretty wide. When the subject score is sent to college, does the percentile also get to send to the school?



    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      College Board calculate percentile ranks for Subject Tests as the percentage of students scoring lower. The currently reported percentile rank for an 800 in Math 2 is 79, which means that about 21% of students earn a perfect mark. Yes, colleges do receive this information, but it’s not necessarily relevant, since they can look at the distribution among their own applicants. I discourage the interpretation of percentiles with Subject Tests because the pool of test-takers varies so much from test to test.

  • Avatar Hope says:

    Hi Art,
    I toke the Lit subject test and received a 630 and with a superscore my SAT is a 1310, which I understand is pretty low. I was wondering if it is worth sending in my lit subject test to NYU? I don’t know if that would help or do nothing in my favor. If you could help me decide, I would be so thankful.
    Thank You

  • Avatar Ms Shoaib says:

    Hi Art!
    My daughter decided to apply to American Universities in September this year (quite late) and has to apply this year too. She received a 690 in her SAT Subject Literature test and a 680 in her Math I Subject test (she sat both in the start of November), which I understand is low for Ivy League Colleges . If she were to do well in her General SAT in December, do you think she should send her subject tests scores or not? If not, would it be disadvantageous to not send in any subject test scores since there are no dates left for anymore SAT subject tests before the January deadline for applications? For context purposes, she is a UK applicant and wants to apply to Harvard. Also, what score do you think she should be aiming for on her general SAT if she were to submit the Subject test scores?

    • Avatar Art Sawyer says:

      Ms Shoaib.
      I would recommend that you evaluate where you stand after your daughter receives her SAT scores. At the most competitive schools — Harvard, for example — her Subject Test scores will not help her case, so they are better left off. If she scores in the 1450+ range on the SAT, then I’d say that the Subject Tests aren’t a positive at any school. If she is in the 1300-1350 range or below, then the STs would be a nice complement.

  • Avatar Jeff G. says:

    What happened to the comments section?

  • Avatar Ganu says:

    Thanks for the quick response Art.

Leave a Reply