What's a Good SAT Literature Subject Test Score?

Learn What Literature Subject Test Score You Need for College Admission

Riverside Shakespeare
Riverside Shakespeare. Jinx!/Flickr

What SAT Literature Subject Test score you need to get into a top college or to earn college credit will vary from school to school. The mean score in 2016 was a 599, significantly higher than the mean score on the general SAT reading section.

The table at the bottom of the page shows the correlation between Literature SAT scores and the percentile ranking of students who took the exam. For example, 61 percent of students scored a 660 or below on the exam.

 While no such tool exists for the Literature exam, you can use this free calculator from Cappex to learn your chances of getting into specific colleges based on your GPA and general SAT scores.

SAT Subject Test scores aren't comparable to general SAT scores because the subject tests tend to be taken by a higher percentage of high-achieving students than the SAT. Whereas a large number of colleges and universities require SAT or ACT scores, mostly elite and highly selective schools require SAT Subject Test scores. As a result, the average scores for SAT Subject Tests are significantly higher than those for the regular SAT. For the SAT Literature Subject Test, Compare, for example, the mean score of 599 on the Literature Subject Test with a mean score of about 500 for the regular SAT critical reading section. It's also worth noting that the mean score on the Literature subject test has been edging upward in recent years--it is over 30 points higher than it was just two years ago.

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:

  • Williams College: For the class of 2021, 51 percent of students scored between 750 and 800 for evidence-based reading and writing; 31 percent scored between 690 and 740; 15 percent scored between 630 and 680; 3 percent scored below 630 (from the Williams class of 2021 profile)

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.

For course credit and placement in Literature, the SAT Literature Subject Test is rarely used. Some colleges will use it to assess the college-readiness of home-schooled students, but for course placement AP exams are used far more frequently.

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

Literature SAT Subject Test Scores and Percentiles

SAT Literature Subject Test ScorePercentile

In general, Advanced Placement exams are better than SAT subject tests in assessing an applicant's college readiness in an academic discipline. Nevertheless, both AP and SAT can play a positive role in your application process by demonstrating your mastery of a subject area.

While an "A" in a high school literature class can mean something different at different high schools, a 750 on the literature SAT subject test convincingly shows that an applicant has mastered a range of ideas and concepts related to literary study.