How Are SAT Subject Tests Scored?

Most students and their parents are likely familiar with the SAT, the standardized test required by a majority of the nation’s colleges and universities. However, families tend to be less acquainted with the SAT Subject Tests. As college admissions exams, the SAT Subject Tests can be equally important with regard to a student’s college prospects, and may even affect their ability to skip over entry-level courses.

 

While the SAT measures overall aptitude and college readiness, the Subject Tests assess applicants’ knowledge of specific subjects and material. In this sense, SAT Subject Tests offer students a great opportunity to show off their expertise in a particular field. Students can choose from 20 tests in five principle topic areas: English, History, Foreign Language, Mathematics, and Science. The best way to prepare for SAT Subject Tests is to take courses in the subjects prior to sitting for the exams.

 

It’s worth noting that a large number of colleges now require students to take one or more subject tests, while other simply recommend that students submit their scores. View a complete list of institutions that consider the SAT Subject Tests online.

Scoring SAT Subject Tests

The SAT Subject Tests are multiple choice exams which are scored on a 200 to 800 point scale, with 800 being the best possible result. For language exams, such as the Spanish with Listening Subject Test, students also receive a subscore ranging from 20 to 80. Additionally, SAT Subject Test takers receive percentile ranks, which allow them to compare their scores to other students who took the exam. For example, a percentile rank of 75 indicates that a student performed better than three quarters of the individuals who took that particular test.

 

When assessing SAT Subject Test results, colleges often consider score ranges rather than exact numbers. This is because the College Board notes that a student’s scores may be 30 to 40 points above or below their actual ability. Moreover, a difference of 60 points must exist between two students’ scores to say that one definitively performed better than the other. In general, the most selective colleges look for SAT Subject Test scores of around 650 or above. However, scores in the 500 to 600 ranges are considered strong by most institutions.

Build a Profile That Will Impress Admissions Officers

Our Early Advising Program helps students in 9th and 10th grade discover their passions and build strong academic and extracurricular profiles to succeed in high school.

What Do Students Need to Know About SAT Subject Tests?

If you’re thinking about taking any of the SAT Subject Tests, then the first question you have is likely what exams to take. Because different colleges have their own requirements and recommendations about SAT Subject Tests, it’s important to do your research before selecting particular exams. According to the College Board site, some of the most popular Subject Tests include Literature, U.S. History, Math, and Chemistry.

 

Subject Tests last one hour each, and students can opt to take up to three exams in one day. During this time, they will be given two five-minute breaks in which they can eat and drink. Students may not sit for the SAT and the Subject Tests on a single test date.

 

While the tests are given around six times during the course of a school year, not every location offers all 20 tests on each testing date. For example, Listening tests are currently only available in November. The College Board website lists testing dates and location for particular exams, along with registration deadlines.

 

In some cases, students may be asked to bring special equipment to their testing site based on the specific test they’re taking. If you’re taking the Language with Listening test, you might need to supply a CD player. While students do need to register for tests in advance, they can opt to add, subtract, or switch exams on testing day, with some limitations.

 

As an increasing number of students apply to college, admissions are becoming more competitive than ever. If you want a leg up in the admissions process, it’s important to start preparing early. CollegeVine created its Early Advising Program to help students plan for their futures while still in high school. From deciding which AP classes to take to choosing SAT Subject tests, our mentors will support you every step of the way. To learn more about how we can help, call today or contact our team online.

Want more tips on improving your academic profile?

We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.


April Maguire
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.