3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Helpful to submit SAT subject tests?

My son has fairly high SAT scores (1450, and waiting for a second set of scores from the August test), is taking a quite challenging course load at high school, but has decent but not outstanding grades that put him in about the top 20% of his high school class. He has also mostly gotten 3's on his AP exams (three 3's and one 4 so far). He's planning to apply to a reach school for early admission applications (a top 20 small liberal arts school), and wondering if he took the October SAT subject tests (and did well on them) if it might help him? Maybe it would demonstrate some subject-specific mastery that might fill a gap in his application? He is a good multiple choice test-taker, but not as great at timed essay exams. So, there's some reason to believe that he could do better on the subject tests than the AP tests (which were all essay last spring due to COVID), even without a ton of studying, since the subject tests would play to a strength, while the AP exams (in their spring format) did not.


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4 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago

Providing more detail to your question is very helpful.

I think both responders were thinking that 15 days is cutting it short to prepare if he's trying to apply early to the reach school.

If your son is thinking about applying regular decision instead, then I think he has a better chance of getting enough studying to do well on the SAT II subject tests. He has multiple options then of taking it Nov or Dec and still get the results back before Xmas.

I agree that different students do better on different tests. For instance, I performed better on the ACT vs SAT. I also performed better on the mucked up AP essays than I did on the SAT Subject tests (although I got A+s for French for 5 years and Chem, I bombed them)

It would be good for you and him to discuss the pros and cons of taking the Subjects tests either Oct, Nov or Dec and seeing what makes the most sense.

The thought you have about bumping up his academic record is valid with great Subject scores because that's the intent of them which is to provide subject mastery.

Just a thought, it just might be better to apply early Nov.1 but take the SAT 2s Nov 6. (not 10/3 so he has some time to master the material) and when they come out on Nov 16th, shoot them over to the admissions office because there will still be a month left of deliberation. If they like him, then it can't hurt. If they have passed on him, then this might give his file another 2nd look and make a difference. And for regular decision apps, at least he will have some other test scores to put on the Common Application.

3 years ago

Helpful to submit SAT subject tests? Not at this point. Your son doesn't have enough time to study. Plus his previous grades and APs scores do not indicate he would get top scores.

Or, is that wishful thinking? Yes. Wishful thinking. And I agree with Letty, you might have good intentions but you could be doing more damage than good at helping his chances. I have to vote to protect your sons wellbeing over what you want.

3 years ago

Honestly, I think you are being ridiculous.

The October SAT test date is in 2 weeks.

How is it physically or mentally possible that your son who you admit is highly intelligent but not top of his class (20% percentile) and gets mostly 3s on his APs, and has "grinded" to the best of his ability to get a 1450 and possibly a higher 2nd SAT score, can be expected to get 720-800 SAT Subject 2 test scores in 2 weeks of prep for multiple subjects. That's what you are asking right? I mean there is no point in him taking the SAT IIs if he is going to get a score that is commensurate with his current AP scores or grades for that subject right? Because if that's all he could produce it would actually reinforce to all the application readers that he is B+, A- student in these core areas. This would defeat the purpose of propping him up into another bracket of achievement.

Being a very involved parent who has a CV account and wants to college coach their kid can be seen by some kids on here as a nice thing. However, the majority of HS students see your efforts as putting that much pressure on your son during his senior year which is extremely challenging in itself with coursework, online challenges, virtual visits, interviews, college research, writing essays, getting recommendations, etc. Remember that all the colleges have already said that SAT/ACT scores are optional (or test blind in some cases) and the same goes for SAT II subject tests (Yale, CalTech, MIT have all taken a test blind approach to SAT II test as won't look at them and will redact the scores if you submit them). He is already lucky that he will have 2 SAT scores to superscore off of. 1/2 the kids this admissions cycle do not have a test score.

You have done a great job for 17 or 18 years raising him. And he has done a great job and will get into a great school and have a great college experience. At this point, there are no last-minute power plays that are going to change your son's innate talent and ability and leave a different impression about your son after they read his file. It would be better to continue to support him and continue an honest and open dialogue with him and help him choose a college that will be the best fit for him alone because that's what parents should want for their kids right? You want them to be happy and have the best opportunities to be their best version of themselves. What you were asking was not thinking about how he would mentally, physically, and emotionally deal with this task if you persuaded him to go ahead with it.

Nothing personal but your approach to "full-court press 24/7" like this is life or death is not what the college process should be about.

I highly recommend you take the weekend and read Frank Bruni's book on colleges. It's a fast read and meant for a parent like yourself.

Good luck to your son.

3 years ago

Congrats to your son for his great SAT score during this crazy time! To answer your question, the important of Subject Tests has been declining over the years, and they are especially unimportant this year. Some schools, like Amherst and Yale, won't even consider Subject Test scores if you submit them.

If he did poorly on his spring APs, that's totally understandable given the format. Definitely don't have him submit those 3's to top schools, and there's no need to submit the 4 either, as it might draw attention to the "missing" scores.

If studying for Subject Tests will take away valuable time from writing essays, then it's probably not worth it. If he has the extra time though, it certainly can't hurt to take a couple Subject Tests at a later test date.

Hope this helps, and let me know if you have more questions!

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