Which SAT II Subject Tests to Take
Which SAT II Subject Tests to Take
There are three types of SAT II test: those you must take, those you should take, and those you shouldn’t take.
  • The SAT II tests you must take are those required by the colleges you are interested in.
  • The SAT II tests you should take are tests that aren’t required, but that you’ll do well on, thereby impressing the colleges looking at your application.
  • The SAT II tests you shouldn’t take are those that aren’t required and cover a subject you don’t feel confident about.
Determining Which SAT II Tests Are Required
You’ll need to do a bit of research to find out if the colleges you’re applying to require that you take a particular SAT II test. Call the schools you’re interested in, look at their web sites, or talk to your guidance counselor. Often, colleges require that you take the following SAT II tests:
  • The SAT II Writing test
  • One of the two SAT II Math tests (either Math IC or Math IIC)
  • Another SAT II in a subject of your choice
The SAT II Biology is not usually required by colleges. But taking it and doing well can show a liberal arts college that you are well-rounded or a science-oriented college that you are serious about science. In general, it is a good idea to take one science-based SAT II, such as Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.
Deciding If You Should Take an SAT II That Isn’t Required
There are two rules of thumb for deciding which additional test to take beyond the Writing and Math tests:
  1. Go with what you know. If history is your field, a strong score on the American History test will impress admissions officers far more than a bold but mediocre effort on the Physics test.
  2. Try to show breadth. Scoring well on similar subject tests such as Math, Biology, and Chemistry will not be as impressive as good scores in more diverse subjects, such as Math, Writing, World History, and Biology.
Of course, you also have to know what is considered a good score and whether or not you can get that score (or higher).
Below we have included a list of the most commonly taken SAT II tests and the average scaled score on each. If you feel confident that you can get a score that is above the average (50 points or more), taking the test will probably strengthen your college application. Please note that if you are planning to attend an elite school, you might have to score significantly higher than the national average. The following table is just a general guideline. It’s a good idea to call the schools that interest you or talk to a guidance counselor to get a more precise idea of what score you should be shooting for.
Test Average Score
Writing 590–600
Literature 590–600
American History 580–590
World History 570–580
Math IC 580–590
Math IIC 655–665
Biology E&M 590–600
Chemistry 605–615
Physics 635–645
As you decide which test to take, be realistic with yourself. Don’t just assume you’re going to do great without at least taking a practice test and seeing where you stand.
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