On first glance, the SAT IIs may seem unnecessary – like most sequels.  Outside of elite universities, many schools do not require them. They’re often taken late in the college admissions process, in mid-June after the SATs and AP Exams, so many students treat them as superfluous.  But used properly, the subject tests can be an important way to strengthen your application.

First, college admissions have gotten more competitive with each passing year and students need to set themselves apart.  Excellent SAT II scores is a great way to do that. The subject tests offer an opportunity for redemption if you performed poorly in an AP class.  While a B+ in AP U.S. History may not be entirely offset by an 800 the respective SAT II, it will help mitigate the grade. Similarly, you can use your SAT IIs to strengthen the story which you tell throughout your application.  A prospective bioengineer will look much more the part if they perform well on the corresponding subject tests. Furthermore, a good subject test score can lead to either college credit or placing out of introductory courses at a number of universities.  All students should at least consider sitting for the SAT IIs. Remember: there’s no obligation to submit your scores if you don’t perform to your standards.

If school requires a pair of subject tests, as many high tier ones do, then there’s no question.  Send them in. But if they’re only considered rather than required, then you should only submit scores that help you.  But discerning what constitutes a good SAT II isn’t easy. Despite the fact that the SAT IIs use the same scale as the SATs, equal scores do not mean equal mastery.  The pool of students sitting for the SATs is much larger than its counterpart’s, so the average score on the SATs is around a 500. However, for the SAT IIs, there are fewer test takers and they tend to be stronger students; the average score for most SAT IIs hovers between 650 and 700.  Thus a 700 on the two tests means vastly different things.  On one, it will position you in the 93rd percentile, but on the other, you will have done better than barely half your competition.

Using the percentile of your score is a good start, it doesn’t give you a full benchmark.  Few colleges release that average subject test scores of their accepted students. As a general rule, elite universities want above a 750 on the exam.  Getting to that level is difficult; it requires hours of additional studying for overstressed juniors. But don’t worry, Ivy Admissions is here to help.  We know the secret of cross-studying so students can prepare for multiple exams simultaneously without sacrificing depth of knowledge. We’ll crack the test wide open, together.