How will self-studying AP/ SAT II exams effect my admission chances?Answered
My school doesn't have many APs that relate to my major and as such, I am planning to self-study many of the AP exams I wish to take. I get that the classes can raise my GPA, but how much does a 5 factor into admissions without that class? On top of that, how much does a good score on the SAT subject tests matter?
Hi @rayne.rose, really good question! @crsgo0422 gave a very solid answer that I'm just going to add onto. SAT II exams are very important if you are planning on applying to some of the top schools in the country. They can also be important even if you aren't shooting for top schools because they can be a way to distinguish yourself from other applicants assuming you are able to score well on them. If you have an idea of what you'd like to major in I can offer some advice on which tests you should take if you need help deciding. The SAT IIs will help when being considered but an Admissions Officer will most likely not decide to let you in because you got an 800 on two tests, it will come down to ECs, essays, grades, etc. If the choice is between you and a student who didn't take any SAT IIs (or did and didn't score too great) the tests will probably tip the scales in your favor. Overall I'd say this about the SAT IIs: getting a good score on the tests will probably NOT be a deciding factor if you get into a school or not, especially at top schools, however, submitting poor scores definitely can have a negative impact on your chances and could be a reason you are NOT considered.
For the APs, getting a 5 on the test will have little to no impact on your chances. In fact, AP scores typically don't even go on your college application as there is no place on the application that requires you put them. Of course you can self report scores, and you should if you are able to get 4/5s, but if you score poorly you can just not put anything and schools will be non the wiser. If you're able to score multiple 5s it might give you a slight boost but if you're applying to top schools there will be a significant number of students who did the same. Honestly it is the classes that have more weight on the application because it shows colleges you are willing to push yourself academically. I can't tell if your school doesn't offer a lot of APs or just doesn't offer many related to your major. Even if the AP class isn't related to your major you should still take them. Colleges will look to see how many APs are offered at your school and how many you took while in school. The more APs you can take while still getting good grades the better it will be for your application. If it's not too late I would strongly recommend taking some of the APs your school offers as that will give you more of a boost than scoring 5s on the test.
Let me know if you have additional questions about APs, SAT IIs, or anything I wrote in my answer. Good luck with the studying too!
Subject tests are very important nowadays since they will give you an edge over other applicants, and if you are applying for T20/elite universities taking TWO of these is essential to your application. Ideally you want be in the 75-85 percentile (80th ideally) of test scores, and the score/800 for that varies on each exam. Literature, Math 1, and Bio E are the hardest so to be in the 75th percentile you need a 730 or better, but for Math 2 which is very very common a perfect score is only 78th percentile. This means a 730 in Math 1 is roughly the same as an 800 in Math 2. This is just something to consider when you take the exam. Use this chart https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/sat/pdf/sat-subject-tests-percentile-ranks.pdf (it is missing the Foreign Language exams and some of the more obscure ones, but most of the basic tests are here) to see where your “goal” score should be. I recommend you take one humanities and one stem, but to be honest it doesn’t really matter which exams you take as long as the scores are that 75th or above percentile.
AP scores are of course a boost but to be honest many colleges, especially in the wake of test-optional policies, are not counting them for as much weight on your application. Of course having a 4 or a 5 is excellent, and usually the benefit is if you did poorly in the class but well on the exam (which helps balance out the issue). APs are important to show course rigor, and because you don’t have many AP classes, taking the exam by yourself will show your self-initiative. I still recommend you take all the AP classes that you can to pad your GPA and to also boost the rigor of your work load. It doesn’t matter if they relate to your major; you should still take them.