At Damian SAT ACT Prep we advise our students looking to land a spot in an Ivey League that SAT Subject Tests are a must.
Most Ivy League schools don’t have definitive requirements for which Subject Tests you should take; they simply recommend or require two, and allow you to choose which ones to take.
However, some schools prefer to see a range of knowledge, in which case it’s best to take Subject Tests that cover a variety of topics. For example, you could pair a humanities or social studies test (such as literature or history) with a math or science test (such as physics or chemistry).
Because all top-ranked schools are looking for well-rounded students who excel in a variety of subject areas, we at Damian SAT ACT Prep we advise our students to plan on a mix of science/math and literature/history or foreign languages package.
At the same time, the choice is largely up to you. The Subject Tests are a chance to demonstrate your subject mastery and express your interests and academic skills in a particular subject area. Therefore, if you’ve indicated a major, then it’s a smart idea to take (and score highly on) the corresponding Subject Test.
Just as with the rest of your application, your choice of Subject Test can communicate something about your interests and future goals. It might also be an opportunity to strengthen an area in which you wish your course grade or your AP exam score were higher.
The language tests can be a valuable indicator of your language skills, which admissions officers appreciate in our increasingly globalized world. If you can present a strong language score, then you can showcase your multilingualism and maybe even advance to higher levels of language courses once you arrive at the school.
However, some schools warn against taking an SAT Subject Test in your first language if it’s not English. A score in another subject area would be more helpful as it more accurately indicates your academic potential.
If you’re applying to schools with an engineering or technical focus such as MIT and Caltech, you’ll likely need to submit a combination of math and science Subject Tests. At Damian SAT ACT Prep we advise our students to make sure they do NOT take both Math 1 and Math 2 Subject Tests.
They are not going to be accepted. A science test (biology, chemistry, or physics) is a better choice instead of a second Math Tests.Also, be careful, Caltech wants one math and that needs to be Math Level II.
Once you’ve decided on your SAT Subject Tests, though, what scores should you aim for?
Selective schools don’t usually publicize cutoffs for test scores; instead, they insist that they take a holistic approach to applications and consider all parts within the context of the greater whole.
However, as you know, there are many more qualified candidates than there are spaces at these schools. With this in mind, you want your application to be exceptional and stand out as especially strong and unique—which is why getting a high SAT Subject Test score is so important.
But just how high should you be aiming? This mainly depends on the school you’re applying to. For example, MIT has said that its admitted students score between 720 and 800 on science Subject Tests, whereas admitted applicants to Princeton generally score 710-790 on Subject Tests.
Selective institutions expect to see scores in the 700s, usually in the upper half of the 700s. With this data, you can aim to be in 80th or 90th percentile of test takers in the tests you’ve chosen.
If you’re planning to major in math or science or are applying to schools like MIT, an 800 on your math and science Subject Tests would be really helpful, even expected, for your application.
As you prep for the Subject Tests and the SAT or ACT, which one should take priority? We answer this question next.