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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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What SAT IIs Should You Take if You Want to Get into a BS-MD Program?

BS-MD programs are a popular option for students who know for sure that they want to go to medical school. These programs often allow students to enroll in medical school right after completing their undergraduate degree, provided that students meet requirements such as maintaining a certain college GPA or completing research or lab hours. Given how competitive medical school admissions are, this is a small price to pay!


Given how attractive BS-MD programs are, they often have strict admissions requirements beyond that of general admissions. You’ll want to prove your academic strength to the admissions counselors, and one of the best ways to do that is with SAT IIs.


What are SAT IIs?


SAT IIs, also known as SAT Subject tests, are a set of standardized tests that cover subjects commonly covered in high school. They’re divided in five general categories:


  • English
  • History
  • Math
  • Science
  • Foreign Languages


Every SAT II is a multiple choice test that takes about an hour to complete, and students earn scores between 200 to 800. As you probably guessed, 800 is the highest score you can achieve, so that’s the score to aim for!


SAT IIs are offered on the same days and often the same locations as the SAT. While you can take up to three SAT IIs on the same day, you can’t take both the SAT and an SAT II. For more information about when the SAT IIs are offered, check out our post SAT Subject Test Dates and Deadlines for 2018-2019.


While some colleges require SAT IIs, most only recommend these tests. Many top schools consider SAT II scores in addition to the rest of your academic profile, so SAT IIs can help you stand out from other college applicants and demonstrate your academic strength in specific subjects not covered on the SAT. For many students, SAT IIs show that they’re ready for their intended major, as long as you choose SAT IIs that align with your major. For BS-MD programs, you’ll want to focus on Math and Science SAT IIs.


Some schools may use SAT IIs for particular applicants or use them outside of their general admissions. For example, some schools might place you in higher-level courses based on your SAT II scores, so you can take more interesting, specialized classes offered to upperclassmen. Many schools also ask that international, bilingual/ESL students, and homeschooled students take SAT IIs to show that their education was on par with a U.S. high school education and that they’re ready for college.


BS-MD Program Requirements & SAT IIs


BS-MD programs are looking for applicants with demonstrated strength in the sciences, and a particular interest in the life sciences. You’ll want to keep this in mind as you consider which SAT IIs to take.


Your first priority is to satisfy the BS-MD admissions requirements, if they have any regarding SAT IIs. This typically involves one science test and one math test at a minimum. Here are some examples of BS-MD programs that require SAT IIs:



Some schools recommend SAT IIs but don’t require them for admissions. For example, Brown doesn’t require any SAT IIs for their BS-MD program. If your school doesn’t require SAT IIs, we still encourage you take them to set you apart from other applicants and demonstrate your academic strength in relevant subject areas.

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At a minimum, you should take one science and one math subject test. We recommend that you take Chemistry, since several BS-MD programs explicitly require this. That said, it’s a good idea to also take either the Biology E or Biology M SAT II, depending on which subtest you score better in. Not only does this show you’re strong in science generally, it demonstrates your ability for the life sciences.


What’s the difference between Biology E and Biology M? The Biology subject test has 80 questions, and the first 60 are identical. Only the last 20 questions differ by focusing on a particular type of biology.


  • You should take E if you feel more comfortable answering questions about ecology, evolution, and diversity.
  • You should take M if you feel confident answering questions about biochemistry, cellular structure, and biological processes such as respiration and photosynthesis.


As for Math, Math Level II is the better option, since several programs explicitly require it.


Other SAT IIs to Consider


Unlike other undergraduate programs, BS-MD programs will usually take all of your SAT IIs when making their admissions decisions. This is because they have a higher pure academic bar for applicants; they’re basically deciding to admit someone into medical school based on their high school performance, so anything that shows you’ve got the chops will help.


Depending on what your school requires, supplement with subjects they don’t require or that they recommend. For example, Boston University requires Chemistry and Math 2 but recommends a foreign language subject test, so that’s the perfect test to supplement your other SAT IIs. Even if not required, aim to take two sciences, one math, and ideally 1 or 2 humanities if you can.


Remember that any recommended or optional subject tests are there to demonstrate your strengths across academic disciplines. It’s important that you choose subjects you think you will do well in or that you have enjoyed in school. College Board also offers free free practice resources for every test so you can get a feel for which combination of tests will best showcase your strengths.


Wrapping it Up


Nothing replaces doing your own research into programs you’re interested in. Make sure to follow the information on the admissions website to the letter, and if you’re ever unsure about something on the admissions website, don’t be afraid to contact that school directly for clarification.


The best way to prepare for the SAT IIs is to take challenging courses in high school. These tests evaluate how well you learned from your classes in high school, so by pushing yourself to do well in all of your classes you can demonstrate your academic readiness for college.


If you need more help preparing for the SAT, download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.


Check out these posts for more information about medical school and pre-med:


Top 25 Combined BS-MD Programs

An Overview of 7-Year Med Programs

2018’s Best Pre-Med Schools

The 10 Most Underrated Pre-Med Colleges in the U.S.

Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.