What's a Good Physics SAT Subject Test Score?

Learn What Physics Exam Score You Need for College Admission and College Credit

Man standing against chalkboard, solves physics equations, rear view, retro
Physics SAT scores. Dominik Pabis / Getty Images

Because most colleges that ask for SAT Subject Tests are highly selective, you will most likely want a score in the 700s if you're going to succeed in impressing the admissions officers. The exact score is going to depend on the school, so this article will provide a general overview of what defines a good Physics SAT Subject Test score and what some colleges say about the exam.

The table at the bottom of the page shows the correlation between Physics SAT Subject Test scores and the percentile ranking of students who took the exam. Thus, 67% of test takers scored a 740 or below on the Physics SAT Subject Test.

Subject Tests vs. the General SAT

The percentiles for SAT Subject Test scores can't be compared to general SAT scores because the subject tests are taken by an entirely different student population. Because the test is required primarily by some of the nations top colleges and universities, the students who take SAT Subject Tests tend to be high achievers. The regular SAT, on the other hand, is required by a wide range of schools, including many that are not selective at all. As a result, the average scores for SAT Subject Tests are significantly higher than those for the regular SAT. For the Physics SAT Subject Test, the mean score is 664 (compared to a mean of about 500 for individual sections of the regular SAT). 

While no such tool exists for the Physics exam, you can use this free calculator from Cappex to learn your chances of being admitted based on your GPA and general SAT scores.

What Subject Test Scores Do Colleges Want?

Most colleges do not publicize their SAT Subject Test admissions data. However, for elite colleges, you will ideally have scores in the 700s. Here are what a few colleges say about the SAT Subject Tests:

  • MIT: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's admissions website states that the middle 50% of students scored between 720 and 800 on SAT II Subject Tests in the sciences.
  • Middlebury College: The prestigious liberal arts college in Vermont claims that they tend to receive SAT Subject Test scores in the low to middle 700s.
  • Princeton University: This elite Ivy League school states that the middle 50% of admitted applicants averaged scores between 710 and 790 on their three highest SAT II Subject Tests.
  • UCLA: As one of the top public universities, UCLA states that about 75% of admitted students scored between 700 and 800 on their best SAT Subject Test, and the average score for the best SAT Subject Test was 734 (675 for the second best subject).
  • Williams College: Over half of matriculated students scored between a 700 and 800 on their SAT Subject Tests.

As this limited data shows, a strong application will usually have SAT Subject Test scores in the 700s. Realize, however, that all elite schools have a holistic admissions process, and significant strengths in other areas can make up for a less-than-ideal test score. Your academic record will be more important than any test scores, especially if you do well in challenging college preparatory courses. Your AP, IB, Dual Enrollment, and/or Honors courses will all play an important role in the admissions equation.

Colleges will also want to see strong non-numerical evidence of your preparedness for college. A winning application essay, meaningful extracurricular activities, glowing letters of recommendation, and other factors can make an application stand out even when the test scores aren't quite what you had hoped for.

Very few colleges use the Physics SAT Subject Test to award course credit or to place students out of introductory level courses. A good score on the AP Physics exam, however, often will earn students college credit (especially the Physics-C exam).

Physics SAT Subject Test Scores and Percentiles

Physics SAT Subject Test Score Percentile
800 87
780 80
760 74
740 67
720 60
700 54
680 48
660 42
640 36
620 31
600 26
580 22
560 18
540 15
520 12
500 10
480 7
460 5
440 3
420 2
400 1

As the table shows, nearly half of all people who took the exam scored a 700 or higher, a far bigger percentage than with the regular SAT. In 2017, only 56,243 students took the Physics SAT Subject Test.

Data source for the table below: the College Board website.