How Do Colleges View SAT and SAT Subject Test Scores?

September 25, 2015 

Answers to your college admissions questions about the SAT and SAT Subject Tests



Can a student pick and choose which sections of an SAT test the colleges can view, as opposed to just a certain test date’s scores? For example, can a student send his Math score from October and his Critical Reading score from November?

No, he can’t do that. The College Board offers a service called Score Choice that allows students some control over the process in that they can choose which scores to send by test date, but they can’t send their best individual section scores. However, most colleges do what is called “superscoring,” which means the colleges pick and choose the highest score in each area. So if a student takes the SAT three times, the school will credit him with the highest score he achieved in Math, Critical Reading, and Writing across all test dates. Note: A handful of the most competitive schools require students to submit all of their scores. It’s best to check with each school on its score-reporting policy.


What about SAT Subject Tests? Can a student choose which SAT Subject scores to send to colleges?

Yes, students have the option of choosing which specific SAT Subject Test scores to send to each college. So if she has taken the SAT Subject Test in Biology twice, for example, and did much better the second time, she can choose to send only the score from her second sitting.

Here is a list provided by the College Board with each college’s score use policy: 

Do colleges that do not require SAT Subject Test scores look more favorably on those students who submit SAT Subject Test scores?

First of all, the list of colleges that require SAT Subject Test scores changes from year to year, so it’s very important to be up to date on the requirements for each college you are considering applying to. While there is no hard-and-fast rule about whether to submit these scores to colleges that don’t require them, in general we believe it can bolster an application if a student has performed well on one or more Subject Tests.

When should a student take an SAT Subject Test?


A student should take the Subject Test as soon as she completes the highest level course in that specific subject. This would normally be in the spring unless the school uses block scheduling and the course ends in January.

However, if the student is going to take a higher-level course in the same subject—for example, she took Physics as a freshman but plans to take AP Physics as a junior—she should wait until completion of the higher-level course before taking the SAT Subject Test in Physics. Keep in mind that the student must complete the SAT Subject Test early enough to meet her college application deadlines.

Is it true that the SAT Subject Tests are not as difficult as the SAT?

It depends, of course, on the specific student, and specifically on his knowledge of the subject matter being tested. The Subject Tests are more straightforward than the SAT itself, so in that regard they can be considered easier. The basic strategies for multiple-choice tests apply: process of elimination, when to guess, plugging in answer choices, etc. But the most important thing is the student’s knowledge of the content tested. 


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