What's a Good Math SAT Subject Test Score in 2018?

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

Student writing on chalkboard in classroom
Math SAT scores. Alberto Guglielmi / Getty Images

The great majority of colleges and universities that require SAT Subject Tests are highly selective, and most will want to see a Math SAT Subject Test score of 700 or higher. Some students will get in with lower scores, but top science and engineering schools such as MIT and Caltech will be looking for scores well above 700. 

Discussion of Math SAT Subject Test Scores

For the 2016-2018 graduating classes, a total of 162,998 students took the Math Level 1 exam, and 427,765 students took the Math Level 2 exam.

The mean score for the Math Level 1 exam was a 605, while the mean score on Math Level 2 was a 693. Note that these scores are significantly higher than typical scores on the SAT general exam which tend to be a little over 500 per section. This is because the SAT Subject Tests tend to be taken by strong students who are applying to top colleges and universities.

The table below shows the correlation between Math SAT Subject Test scores and the percentile ranking of students who took the exam. You'll see that the scores for Math 1 and Math 2 vary considerably. Almost 20 percent of test-takers scored a perfect 800 on the Math Level 2 exam while just 1 percent got a perfect score on the Math Level 1 exam.

The score differences between Math Level 1 and Level 2 may seem counter-intuitive. After all, the Level 2 exam is the more difficult exam since it includes trigonometry and precalculus. The reality, however, is that the strongest applicants tend to have taken math through calculus, and they will always take the Math Level 2 exam, not Level 1.

What Colleges Say About the Math SAT Subject Test

Most colleges do not publicize their SAT Subject Test admissions data. However, for elite colleges, you will ideally have scores in the 700s, and you'll look much stronger if you take Math Level 2 rather than Level 1. For the schools that do publicize SAT Subject Test score information, the general guidelines tend to be rather similar.

At MIT, the middle 50 of students scored between 780 and 800 on the SAT Subject Test in math. You can expect similar numbers for engineering programs at other elite schools.

At top-ranked liberal arts colleges, the typical score ranges are slightly lower, but still in the 700s. Middlebury College states that they are accustomed to seeing scores in the low to middle 700s, while at Williams College about two-thirds of all admitted students scored a 700 or higher. 

At UCLA, 75 percent of admitted students scored above a 700 on their best SAT Subject Test (not necessarily math), with an average score of 732. That average drops to 683 for the second-best subject test score.

Ivy League schools will also be looking for high Subject Test scores. At Princeton University, for example, the middle 50 percent of applicants scored between a 710 and 790 on their three highest SAT Subject Tests.

As this limited data shows, at the most selective colleges even a 700 might be on the low end of the typical range. You'll ideally have scores in the mid to high 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.

Math SAT Subject Test Scores and Percentiles

Math SAT Subject Test Score Percentile (Math Level 1) Percentile (Math Level 2)
800 99 81
780 97 73
760 94 65
740 88 59
720 80 52
700 73 48
680 65 41
660 58 35
640 51 28
620 44 23
600 38 18
580 32 13
560 26 10
540 21 7
520 17 5
500 13 3
480 10 2
460 8 2
440 6 1
420 4 1
400 3 1

What Scores Do You Need for College Credit?

Note that colleges are more likely to award college credit for the AP Calculus AB exam or AP Calculus BC exam than for the SAT Math Subject Test. The SAT Math Subject Test simply isn't comprehensive enough for college's to have confidence in it for awarding course credit. Colleges request Subject Test scores to provide them with one more piece of data about an applicant's college preparedness, not to place students out of college courses.

That said, a few colleges will grant course credit for the SAT Math Subject Test, and many will use the exam as a math placement exam. For example:

  • Loyola University of Chicago: A score over 535 on either the Math Level 1 or Level 2 exams will exempt students from taking the Math Placement Assessment, and students will be placed into the appropriate math course.
  • Texas Christian University: Students can place into Calculus I with a score of 560 or better on the Math Level 1 exam or 520 or better on the Math Level 2 exam.
  • University of Texas at Austin School of Engineering: If your score is 560 to 590 in the level 1 exam or 530 to 550 in the level 2, you are eligible to enroll in M 408C but are encouraged to enroll in M 408K. If your score is 600 in level 1 or 560 in level 2 or greater, you may enroll in M 408C (see the UT Austin Placement Test policy).

Check the websites of individual colleges to learn the policies. In general, however, don't count on getting college credit for an SAT Subject Test. Rather, view the test as a way to demonstrate your college readiness.

Data source for the table : the College Board website.