Breaking News SAT Subject Tests Top Tips

SAT Subject Tests Discontinued, Effective Immediately

The College Board announced today (January 19, 2021) that effective immediately, the SAT subject tests will be discontinued for students in the U.S. and they will be phased out for international students this summer after the May, June test dates.

This decision is the culmination of the slow and steady erosion of the subject tests, exacerbated by the pandemic and test center closures over the course of the last year. Even prior to the pandemic top universities including MIT, CalTech, and Yale had made decisions to no longer even consider these scores in their admissions processes.

The reaction from students, as you might expect, has been highly enthusiastic. Within minutes of the College Board’s announcement, Top Tier students were sending us links to the national news story.


In light of this dramatic announcement, we encourage our students to recommit to your study plan for your upcoming AP exams, (along with your SAT and ACT work and grades). This change will lead admissions officers to put even more emphasis on results of AP exams in upcoming admissions cycles. We also believe that post-pandemic, you’ll see top colleges and universities reinstating the required SAT or ACT for the next admissions season. So, sophomores shouldn’t throw out their subject test books quite yet.

Did you miss the sign up for AP exams? The late registration for exams is March 12th, so get on that now. Remember that you don’t have to take an AP course to sign up for the exam and you can self-study for these exams. We know that some high schools discourage their students from signing up for AP exams but this change in the SAT subject test policy may lead them to reconsider their position. Lobby for yourself!


We also know that many of you were counting on high subject test scores to help you stand out in the crowded college admissions landscape. Without subject tests available, another way you can boost your candidacy includes taking college courses for credit. Earning strong grades in these courses illustrates your readiness for college work and is yet another data point in your evaluation. Especially if you will be applying to colleges without a robust slate of AP tests, college courses are crucial to help you stand out.


Beyond just your grades and scores, colleges are increasingly inspired by students who engage with important issues and who advocate for others. Carve out a space for yourself as a leader and find creative ways to take a stand on issues that are important to you.  Civic engagement is key!

So, recycle those subject test prep books if you are a junior and then get to work! We are here to help you make sense of it all.

College Board Subject Tests Top Tips

The SAT Math II Subject Test

Subject Test GuideThe Math II Subject Test from the College Board is a 50 question test with a 60-minute time allotment. The score range is from 200 to 800 points. Each correct answer earns 1 point while ¼ of a point is subtracted for each incorrect answer. All of the questions are multiple choice with 5 options. A graphing calculator is necessary to accurately solve many of the questions. Questions about Algebra and Functions and Plane and Coordinate Geometry make up a large percentage of the test followed by Trigonometry and Data Analysis (statistics and probability). While calculus may be helpful in answering a few questions, the test does not require knowledge of calculus topics. The test is generally offered 6 times a year (January, May, June, October, November, and December). Be sure to check with the College Board as some locations do not offer the test on every date.

Scaled Score

Your raw score is converted to a scaled score. The scale differs from test to test. In light of the scale, you do not necessarily need to answer every question correctly to score an 800. A raw score in the mid-40 range can be a reported score of 800.


Math II formulas

A reference page is provided which lists a few formulas such as the volume of a right circular cone and the surface area of a sphere. It is vital that you know the more general formulas that would have been provided on the SAT such as the Pythagorean Theorem, relationships of sides and angles of a 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangle, etc.  You should know the rules for exponents and logarithms, the law of sines and cosines, and an assortment of standard trigonometry identities. Often it is helpful to have some more complicated formulas programmed in your calculator (e.g., the law of cosines).

Practice Tests

The College Board has published four Math II Subject Tests. While some questions in the Barron’s Subject Test book are more difficult than you may find on the actual test and some, possibly, not within the scope of the actual test, their material ranks high on the list of practice questions. Other publishers (Kaplan, The Princeton Review, McGraw-Hill, Ivy Global) are worth considering as well. The key: practice, practice, practice!

Take a full-length practice test before you begin preparing. Take the test under real test conditions (sitting, timed). This test will help you understand your weakest area and where you need to focus your efforts. How much preparation time and how many practice tests you should take depends on your math and test-taking skills.

Math II Subject Test tips

A Few Tips & Important Considerations: Math II Subject Test

  1. Asymptotes:

Ex. 1:           Ex. 2:           Ex. 3: 

Finding the vertical asymptote(s) is very easy. Set the denominator equal to 0.

Therefore, in Ex. 1 above, if – 4 = 0; = 4; x= ±2. In Ex. 2 above, there are no vertical asymptotes because  is not a real number. In Ex. 3 above, the vertical is x = 1.

Finding the horizontal asymptote(s) is (almost) horrible because there are conditions that apply.

(a) If the numerator’s degree is < than that of the denominator, there is a horizontal asymptote at y=0 (i.e., the x-axis).

(b) If the numerator’s degree is > than that of the denominator, there is NO horizontal asymptote (that doesn’t rule out a slant asymptote).

(c) If the numerator and denominator have the same degree, the horizontal asymptote is ratio of the leading coefficients.

In Ex. 1 above, since the larger degree is in the denominator, the horizontal is at y = 0.

In Ex. 2 above, since the degrees are the same (2), the horizontal is y = 4/1 = 4.

In Ex. 3 above, since the degree of the numerator (2) is larger than the degree of the denominator (1), there isn’t a horizontal asymptote (but there is a slant asymptote).

  1. Logarithms:

What is the equivalent to: Log(a²– b²) ?

Keep in mind that factoring never leaves youregardless of the math course. Consequently, this question can be rewritten as log[(a+b)(a-b)]. Since logs are exponents, they follow the exponent rules. Therefore, the product of like bases with exponents is the sum of the exponents. That means the equivalent expression is:  log(a + b) log(a – b).

  1. Equation of a Sphere:

Given:  x²+ y²+ z²+ 2x – 4y – 10 = 0

Problems like this extend the notion of the equation of a circle to 3-dimensions. You could be asked for the coordinates of the center and/or the radius of the sphere. The solution requires grouping and completing the square.

First, move the constant to the right side: x²+ y²+ z²+ 2x – 4y = 10

Second, group the like terms:  (x²+ 2x) + (y²– 4y) + z²= 10

Third, complete the square for the x- and y-terms:  (x²+ 2x + 1) + (y²– 4y + 4) + z²= 10+1+4

*Don’t forget to add the two values to the right side after completing the square!

Now, (x+1)²+ (y-2)²+ z²= 15.

Therefore, the center is (-1, 2, 0) and the radius is 

  1. Law of Sines/Cosines:

In ΔABC, if = 1, = 4, and ∠C = 30°, find the length of c.

For many, it’s helpful to quickly sketch the figure:

Math II Subject Test formula

Artistic skill doesn’t count, but be as accurate as you can.

Deciding between the two laws necessitates knowing that the Law of Cosines applies to problems when you have two sides and the included angle as is this case.

Therefore, c²= a²+ b²– 2ab∙cos(30°) →c²= 1+16-8∙0.866  (if you need your calculator, remember to change the MODE to degrees; otherwise, it’s helpful to remember the fundamental functions). The cos(30°) =  .  Then, c²≈ 10.07, so the answer is ≈ 3.17. A “trap” answer option would be 10.07 if you forgot to take the square root!

  1. Probability:

If you were to randomly form a committee of 5 people when you have a choice of 6 men and 9 women, what is the probability that the committee consists of 3 men and 2 women?

Remember that probability is: . The number of total ways is the combination of selecting 5 people out of 15.  That is 15C5= . To be successful, you would have to select 3 men from 6 and 2 women from 9:  6C3  and 9C2.  The probabilities in an and condition are multiplied together (in an or condition they are added together).

6C3 and 9C2  = 20∙36 = 720.  Then, 720/3003 = 240/1001 [combinations and permutations can also be found on your TI calculator under MATH →PRB.

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A Guide to Deciphering Super Scoring

There are so many “terms” to learn when you’re applying to college that it can feel like an entirely different language. Super scoring, ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, Common App, reach, target, early action single choice, early decision II, score choice, word count, and the list goes on.


For this post, we’ll focus on super scoring. Super scoring is a way of viewing and organizing your test scores that some schools offer as a courtesy in an effort to help you put your best foot forward in the application review process. Super scoring is essentially taking your highest scores from each test that you sat for and compiling them for colleges to review.

When you take the SAT, ACT, or even SAT Subject Tests, you’ll likely take them more than once in order to get the highest scores possible. You sit, receive your scores, study harder, and then sit again. If you take it twice, let’s say, you may think that you have two composite scores to choose from. With super scoring, every section matters.


Below is an example of how super scoring would work for the ACT.

Let’s say you took the ACT in September and then again in December and received the below scores in September:

English: 31
Reading: 30
Science: 34
Math: 35
Writing: 7

After receiving these scores, you naturally take it again in an attempt to improve your English, Reading, and Writing scores. Your December scores are:

English: 34
Reading: 33
Science: 33
Math: 34
Writing: 9

With super scoring, you are evaluated as if the below are your scores for your ACT:

English: 34
Reading: 33
Science: 34
Math: 35
Writing: 9


super scoring ACT SAT


Now, as you can see, your highest scores in each section, regardless of the date that you took the exam, make up your new composite score. You are evaluated based on your best performance on each section, not based on your test date overall. It’s a super score.

In order for colleges to consider all of your exam sittings and compile your super score, you have to send in all of your testing results from each sitting to each school. Colleges oftentimes ask that you submit all of your exam official reports and then they commit to consider only your highest scores in each section. You yourself would not super score your results, but rather report all of your test scores and then they would isolate the highest scores.

super scoring FAQ


Is the SAT included in this practice?

Yes, the SAT is also included in super score practices at colleges. However, you cannot super score both the ACT and the SAT—you have to commit to one. This is best practice for test-taking regardless of whether the schools you are applying to will super score your testing results. In other words: you cannot mix and match, even if you got an 800 on the math section of the SAT that you sat for before you switched to the ACT, where you got 35s in English and Reading.

What if I sat three times but only want colleges to super score two of the three?

This all depends on the college’s test reporting policy, as schools have different policies for reporting. Some are alright with self-reporting scores, some are alright with you sending in some but not all of your test scores, but some colleges require that you send in all of your testing (even if you’re not happy with it), and then they can commit to super scoring for you. Make sure that you are diligent in checking a college’s website on this topic, because it would be an unfortunate technicality to overlook. This is also where score choice can come in, which leads us to…

What is score choice? Is it the same as super scoring?

As you might have guessed, the answer is no. Score choice is a policy that some colleges have that places the power of reporting in the student’s hands. In other words, you can choose which scores and exams to report from the ones you sat for. This doesn’t mean that you can super score yourself, as discussed above, but rather, if you sat three times for the ACT and you only want to report your composite for two of those three and leave that first fluke completely out of your application, that is allowed. There are typically one of three policies that schools adopt when it comes to reporting, so make sure that you know which camps your colleges fall into:

  1. “Require all scores”: self-explanatory. You are required to send in all scores.
  2. “Recommend all scores”: You aren’t required to send in all scores, but oftentimes schools that use this wording will exercise super scoring, which means that it works to your benefit to send in all of your scores so that you can be evaluated on your highest sections across all test dates.
  3. “Accept score choice”: Colleges will accept the scores that you choose to submit. Traditional score choice.

Can I choose to send just one of my SAT Subject Test scores from a day when I took two SAT Subject Tests?

Unfortunately, when you send test scores from a test date, it’s all or nothing. This is why it makes sense to get your testing done early so that you have time to isolate and re-take a certain SAT Subject Test, ACT, or SAT test if you need to, as well as review your scores before you send to your colleges.

How do I optimize for super scoring?

The best way that you can optimize your studying and test taking for super scoring is to be intentional about your studying. With super scoring, you can focus your attention on one particular section going into an exam. For both super scoring and score choice, it’s in your best interest to take the exam more than once in order to improve your scores as much as you possibly can.

Should I ever not use score choice?

You should really only use score choice if you absolutely bombed or aced on one particular test day. If your scores are varying, as they often are, it’s best practice to send in all scores, even if you have to reveal that you didn’t do as well as you had wanted to on one particular test day.

What schools offer super scoring?

Good question. We’ve compiled a list of schools that offer super scoring for their applicants. Please note that this is not a complete list and that even if it is listed here, you should read your college’s testing policy directly on their website in order to understand it thoroughly!

American University Northeastern University
Amherst College Occidental University
Bard College Pomona College
Bates College Purdue University
Boston College Sarah Lawrence College
Bowdoin College Stanford University
California Institute of Technology St. Lawrence University
Claremont McKenna College Swarthmore College
Colby College Syracuse University
Colgate University University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Colorado College Trinity College
Connecticut College Trinity University
Cornell University Tufts University
Davidson College University of Chicago
Dickinson College University of Colorado, Boulder
Duke University University of Connecticut
Emerson College University of Maryland, College Park
George Washington University University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Georgia Institute of Technology University of Pennsylvania
Grinnell College University of Rochester
Hamilton College University of Vermont
Harvey Mudd College University of Virginia
Haverford College Vassar College
Johns Hopkins University Villanova University
Kenyon College Virginia Tech
Lafayette College Wake Forest University
Lehigh University Washington University, St. Louis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Wellesley College
Middlebury College Wesleyan University
New York University Williams College


Our ace ACT/SAT tutor Amy says, “As long as students are clear that they should ALWAYS check the admissions policies of the schools to which they are applying and NEVER assume anything about scores, etc., they should be good to go!”

As always, let us know if you have any remaining questions or feel like you need a bit more guidance on your testing schedule.

Insider Tips SAT Standardized Testing Subject Tests

SAT Subject Tests – A Quick Primer

Many parents ask us why their kids should bother taking subject tests if they also take APs – why are subject tests so important anyway? A bit of background – you might remember them as ACHIEVEMENT tests as that’s what they were called for many years, then SAT IIs and now simply “subject tests.” They are sponsored by The College Board, the same organization that brings us the SAT and AP tests.


Unlike AP tests, which are college level and last 3 hours (a combination of multiple choice and essays), subject tests are all one hour multiple choice tests in subjects ranging from U.S. History to Biology to Math and Korean. Top colleges and universities used to require that all applicants submit scores from 2-3 subject tests but over the last several years, colleges have changed their language from requiring to “recommending”. Let’s look closely at why the language has changed and what that means for you.

A key strategic objective at all top colleges over the last two decades has been to increase the diversity of students applying and enrolling. There’s plenty of evidence that points to a clear correlation between economic resources and standardized test scores, as well as differences in testing across racial and ethnic groups. So, in order not to discourage minority students and students from low-income backgrounds, many colleges are now saying they do not “require” subject tests but rather only recommend them.

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Keep in mind they are just saying that so they don’t scare off the students that they seek to attract into their applicant pools. The reality is that for students who attend strong public high schools or boarding schools or private schools, “recommend” really means you need to submit strong subject tests. Colleges expect you to take as many subject tests as correspond to your actual schedule. That means if you are taking honors chemistry, pre calc and U.S. history, they will look for the Chemistry, Math II and US history subject tests. Note: the subject tests are based on honors level coursework, not AP courses, although, for sure, AP courses can be helpful. If you are taking honors chemistry in 10th and AP chemistry in 11th, you can wait till the AP level to take the subject test but, for example, if you are taking an advanced honors biology class in 9th, you can also take the subject test then. Colleges use subject tests to validate your grade in a class. How can they tell that your “A” in physics is the same as another student’s A? They simply look at the subject test results. For top tier colleges, we recommend 3-7 subject tests depending on students’ class schedules and scores on practice tests that forecast high scores.

Subject tests are scored on the same 200-800 point scale used on each section of the SAT, but not all tests are alike. As you can see from data provided by the College Board, a 750 is not the same across all tests. The scale is different for every subject test – you can see that illustrated here if you click on the percentile charts on the College Board website.


If you’re seeking a tutor, look no further. Our subject test tutors will help you define your strengths and weaknesses via diagnostic testing and then work towards maintaining your strengths and improving your weak areas. Buy the Barron’s and Princeton or Kaplan subject test books at the beginning of every school year and study every week rather than saving it till the end of the year. If your teacher doesn’t cover everything, tutor or form a study group, use Khan Academy or study on your own – either way, you will be judged on your scores so be proactive!

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Leverage SAT Subject Tests This August

Subject Tests in the summer? NO way. Actually, YES way –in a BIG way.

Serious college applicants understand that summer isn’t all fun and games. While we’re advocates of relaxation, meditation, living an active lifestyle and of course, fun and games, we also like to play SMART. Definitely find some time to unwind this summer and get outdoors but don’t forget to craft a scholarly summer. With the College Board’s recent release of the new August test date for the SAT and Subject Tests you can do just that. Take advantage of this opportunity to stay a step ahead on the all-important Subject Tests.

The new test date, August 26th, gives high-schoolers, and especially rising seniors applying early, an opportunity to study over the summer and push up May or June prior scores or prep for and take a test that corresponds to last year’s curriculum. This date also gives students an opportunity to begin studying over the summer if they didn’t take subject tests in May or June because they weren’t prepared. An additional test date can alleviate the load of taking up to three subject tests in one sitting, which may lower scores across the board due to testing fatigue. Keep in mind, even if a school has done away with requiring subject tests, top applicants STILL submit them.


We hope we’ve relayed the importance of subject tests and maybe you’re already registered (Kudos!). Keep in mind the registration deadline of July 28, 2017 (for the August date) and note that not all Subject Tests are offered on this test date. The following tests will be offered August 26th and scores should be back by September 15th in time for the early November applications.

  • Literature
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Mathematics I* and II
  • Biology E/M
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • French
  • Spanish

*Most top colleges put little weight on the Math I Subject Test as this represents generally the same math found on the SAT and ACT. Math II is always the better option if you have taken PreCalculus and your practice scores are high enough.

So if you are looking to re-take Modern Hebrew, Italian, or Latin after the June test date, you’re out of luck. You also can’t take any language with the listening component until November, which is the only test date in which listening is offered. For rising seniors, November test scores aren’t guaranteed to be back in time for the early round but they WILL demonstrate further rigor if you need them for the regular round.


SAT Subject Tests Ivy Banner



Maybe you’re still not convinced you need more SAT Subject Tests. After all, most Ivy League schools either recommend** or require two subject tests and last August, Columbia dropped its SAT Subject Test requirement altogether (with a few caveats).




Below are individual Ivy school’s policies on Subject Tests:

  • Brown University: 2 required if SAT is submitted; if ACT with Writing submitted, no subject tests required
  • Columbia University: does not require
  • Cornell University: each undergrad school has their own specific requirements
  • Dartmouth College: 2 required
  • Harvard University: 2 required
  • [Stanford University: 2 recommended**]
  • Princeton University: 2 recommended but not required**
  • University of Pennsylvania: 2 recommended but not required**
  • Yale University: 2 required

**Read this to mean top applicants will submit a minimum of 2!

SAT Subject Tests Scholar


The truth is, most competitive applicants provide four or more high subject test scores. Not taking a subject test after the corresponding honors or AP class, especially if you take the AP makes you appear complacent and certainly doesn’t highlight a ‘love for learning’ that schools are seeking or back up your grades. Private school students in particular, with high level education, should sit for appropriate subject tests.


SAT Subject Test comparisons


Subject tests (and APs) help equalize things across applicants by providing a way for colleges to compare an A at one school to an A at another school. If you’re looking to separate yourself from the sea of 4.0 GPAs and stand out among other high achieving kids from across the country, the SAT Subject Tests can help you.


Keep in mind, not all subject tests are created equal. Every subject test has its own average score, so you should choose wisely which ones you take in order to stand out. And remember, if you’re an unhooked applicant, (meaning not a recruit, development case, underrepresented minority, or legacy…) you need to ensure you’re scores are well above the ‘average’ for any top tier school. Below is a list of all the subject test scores offered in August and their average scores:

SAT Subject Tests Mean
Literature 618
US History 645
World History 618
Math I 619
Math II 690
Biology E/M E: 625; M: 652
Chemistry 666
Physics 667
French 636
Spanish 651

SAT Subject Tests Knowledge


Finally, remember you should never take an SAT Subject Test cold! Practice, practice, practice. Ensure consistent practice test scores are in the appropriate range before the real deal. SAT Subject Tests are not like your class final. So at the very least, before the August test date, do yourself a favor and take a practice test (or four). If you take a practice test and need a subject test tutor for 3 hours of deep diving into a particular test, let us know. Happy studying.