What's a Good SAT Subject Test Score?

SAT Subject Tests Play an Important Role at Some Top Colleges and Universities

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The great majority of colleges require scores from either the SAT or ACT for admissions. There are far fewer schools that require SAT Subject Tests, and those schools tend to be some of the most selective in the country. As a result, most students who take SAT Subject Tests are strong, and average scores on the Subject Tests tend to be quite a bit higher than typical scores on the SAT general exam. Thus, even though SAT Subject Tests use the same 800-point scale as the regular SAT, don't make the mistake of comparing scores on the two types of exam.

Important SAT Subject Test Facts

  • Like the sections of the regular SAT, the Subject Tests are scored on an 800-point scale.
  • An average SAT Subject Test score tends to be well over 600, much higher than averages for the math and reading/writing sections of the regular SAT.
  • Only a small percentage of colleges require SAT Subject Tests.
  • A college's Subject Test policies might be different for specific programs and for home-schooled students.

What Is an Average SAT Subject Test Score?

Average scores on Subject Tests are typically well above 600, and top colleges will often be looking for scores up in the 700s. For example, the mean score on the SAT Chemistry subject test is a 666. By contrast, the average score for the regular SAT is a 536 for the evidence-based reading and writing exam, and a 531 for the math section.

Getting an average score on an SAT Subject Test is more of an accomplishment than receiving an average score on the general exam, for you're competing against a much stronger pool of test-takers. That said, applicants to top colleges tend to be outstanding students, so you don't want to be simply average within the applicant pool.

SAT Subject Test Scores Are Losing Importance

It's also important to note that SAT Subject Tests have been losing favor among college admissions offices in recent years. Several of the Ivy League schools no longer require SAT Subject Test scores (although they do still recommend them), and other colleges such as Bryn Mawr have moved to test-optional admissions. In fact, only a small handful of colleges require SAT Subject Tests for all applicants. 

More typical is a college that requires Subject Test scores for some applicants (for example, the math subject test for engineering students), or a college that wants to see Subject Test scores from home-schooled applicants. You will also find some colleges that have a test-flexible admissions policy and will accept scores from SAT Subject Tests, AP exams, and other tests in place of the more typical SAT and ACT.

Will the Redesigned SAT Kill SAT Subject Tests?

Several colleges and universities have announced that they are phasing out their Subject Test requirements because of the redesigned SAT that launched in March of 2016. The old SAT had purported to be an "aptitude" test that tested your ability rather than what you had learned in school. The ACT, on the other hand, has always been an "achievement" test that attempts to measure what you've learned in school. 

As a result, many colleges did not require SAT Subject Tests for students who took the ACT because the ACT was already measuring a student's achievement in different academic subjects. Now that the SAT has given up on any hint of measuring "ability" and is now much more like the ACT, the need for Subject Tests to measure an applicant's subject-specific knowledge is less necessary. Indeed, it wouldn't be surprising to see the SAT subject tests become optional for all colleges in the coming years, and we may even see the exams disappear altogether if demand drops so low that they aren't worth the College Board's resources to create and administer the exams. But for now, students applying to many top-tier colleges should still take the exams.

SAT Subject Test Scores by Subject:

Mean scores for SAT Subject Tests vary considerably from subject to subject. The articles below provide score information for some of the most popular SAT Subject Tests, so you can use them to see how you measure up to other test-takers:

Should You Take SAT Subject Tests?

If your budget allows (see SAT costs), it is a good idea for students applying to highly selective schools take SAT Subject Tests. For example, if you're taking AP Biology, go ahead and take the SAT Biology Subject Test as well. It's true that many top-tier schools don't require Subject Tests, but many do encourage them. If you think you'll perform well on the exams, taking them can add one more piece of evidence to your application that you are well prepared for college.