Which SAT II Subject Tests to Take
Which SAT II Subject Tests to Take
There are three types of SAT II tests: those you must take, those you should take, and those you shouldn’t take:
  • The SAT II tests you must take are those that are required by the colleges in which you are interested.
  • The SAT II tests you should take are those 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 that cover a subject about which you don’t feel confident.
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 websites, or talk to your guidance counselor. Often, colleges request that you take the following SAT II tests:
  • 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
Not all colleges follow these guidelines, however, so you should take the time to verify which tests you need to take in order to apply to the colleges that interest you.
Colleges do not usually require you to take the SAT II Physics, but taking it and doing well can show a liberal arts college that you are well rounded, or show a technically oriented college that you are serious about science. In general, it is a good idea to take one science-related SAT II, whether Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.
Determining Which Additional SAT II to Take
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 SAT II U.S. History will impress admissions officers far more than a bold but mediocre effort on the SAT II Physics .
  2. Try to show breadth. Scoring well on Math, Physics, and Chemistry tests will not be as impressive as good scores in Math, Writing, U.S. History, and Physics.
Of course, you also have to know what is considered a good score on that SAT II test, and whether you can get that score (or higher).
Below, we have included a list of the most popular SAT II tests and the average scaled score on each. For most schools, a score that is 50 points above this average will significantly boost your college application. If you are applying to an elite school, you may need to aim closer to 100 points above the average. It’s a good idea to call the schools you’re interested in, check their websites, or talk to a guidance counselor for a more precise idea of what score you should be shooting for.
Writing 590-–600
Literature 590–600
U.S. History 580–590
World History 570–580
Math IC 580–590
Math IIC 655–665
Biology 590–600
Chemistry 605–615
Physics 635–645
It’s a good idea to take three tests that cover a range of subjects, such as one math SAT II, one humanities SAT II (History or Writing), and one science SAT II. However, taking more than three SAT II tests is probably not necessary.
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