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• 11/11/2020 at 10:17PM

If my SAT score is 1560, is it worth improving my score to a 1570+ or should I take SAT Subject Tests?

I scored a 780 in math and I feel like I can improve that to perhaps an 800, or I can take SAT Subject Tests in Math and Chemistry and try and get 800s on those. I'm applying to schools like the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, UPenn, Rice, Cornell, Columbia, Brown, etc.

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2 answers

• 11/12/2020 at 01:32AM[edited]

Scoring 1560 is the 99.5th Percentile so if 1 million people (Versus 2.2 million last year prior to COVID-19) took the SAT, then at any given sitting, only 5,000 people in the world have a better score. The top 75 colleges get about 1.4 million applications (many are overlaps from the same people so I don't know how many are unique) and they accept about 200,000 each admissions cycle. If having a 1560+ was a requirement at any school or increased the acceptance rate, then we would see more evidence in the Common Data Sets that support that but if you do a deep dive into saying the Top 20, you will see that there are actually more students who get admitted with 1450-1500 scores than 1550-1600 scores. So statistically, there is no advantage to having a higher SAT score than 1560. Caltech and MIT do have lots of applicants in past years that had the 1560s but this year MIT is test-optional and test blind on SAT 2 scores, and CalTech is test blind all across the board. To answer your question about SAT IIs, I'd say they are especially less important this cycle because many schools have either dropped the requirement entirely or made them optional. There are even more people out there applying w/o SAT II test scores than an SAT/ACT score.

I have asked myself this question about the ACT. I have a 35 and an 11 writing score, 35 Stem Score, and a 35 ELA score so I did some research and decided that there is no reason in this cycle to use valuable time to try to get a 36. We are probably applying to many of the same schools and even though 1/3 or 1/2 might not have a test score to report, I feel that many without reporting a score will be admitted ahead of us because they have other attributes those colleges are looking for specifically to build their class. The way I look at it is that if we are evaluated against someone that has the same basic file as ours but we have test scores, that's an insurance policy to the college that we will be able to get good grades, I don't think the bump is significant.

One bit of research I did was to read the court documents of the Harvard Class Action lawsuit where a group of people felt Harvard was discriminating against Asians, not for having low scores but for having the highest scores and not letting them in. According to the court documents provided, Harvard scores applicants from 1 to 5 across these areas, Academics, EC, Community, Employment, Family Rating, Personal Rating, Teacher Recommendations, Athletic Rating, Interview Rating. 1 is the highest, 2 is average for admits, 3s hardly get accepted, 4/5s are auto-rejected. Test scores fall under the Academic rating which also includes grades (course rigor), intellectual curiosity (or independent research). Only 1% of Harvard admits have a score of 1 which is a Summa Cum Laude rating. A "1" is a genuine scholar who has evidence of original scholarship and unique creativity. That's only 20 students. Most of the admitted class are 2+, 2, or 2- and are called Magna Cum Laude. They have superb grades and either mid to high 700 SAT scores or a 33+ ACT score. Harvard which I personally think is the hardest school to get into does not differentiate between a 1500 and 1600 nor does it differentiate between a 33 and 36. So you have to have other amazing attributes and qualities to get accepted. There is some other anecdotal evidence of that (can't recall who said it) but apparently they get enough applicants with perfect grades and test scores to fill more than two classes each year something like 8000+ applicants.

Therefore, I think it's more important to have stellar recommendations, essays, and ECs if you are applying to the Top 20 colleges than test scores.

Good luck with your college admissions journey.

Accepted Answer
• 11/11/2020 at 10:36PM

No, not at all. Perhaps if you scored this junior year and had September, October, and November ahead of you, then this would be a somewhat viable choice. But because we just finished with November SATs, there is only one more opportunity in December for the SAT (or any standardized testing) and the next opportunity doesn’t come until March I believe—via CollegeBoard.

Furthermore, I believe anything 1520+ is a peak score, meaning you’ve scored in at least the 98th percentile of all students of your class around the world. Additionally, why not take a subject test? Would you rather have a sole SAT score to represent your academic ability, or that great SAT score AND a subject test represent your ability? It’s a smart choice to do both because this will most definitely stand out on your application for these top tier schools and ivies, for not many of the class of 2021 was able to take an SAT. : ( -And some, like me, are still unable to because the virus is rampaging my area and SAT sites are closing: dear Lord what has this world been reduced too!?!?

Oh yeah, congrats on that score by the way!! Hope they accept you!