The Drama of the SAT II

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To the parents of the rising junior: Congratulations! Your child has just finished sophomore year. You probably have a fair sense of his or her academic style and capacity at this point, and hopefully you are both feeling good. Two years down, two to go, right? 

Now let me invite you to dip your toe into the cool stream of college admissions vernacular. It’s coming your way soon, so you might as well get started! There are terms you may already know, and some that may be unfamiliar. Everyone knows about the SATs, and PSATs, but not everyone has heard about the SAT IIs – or SAT subject tests. (These should not be confused with the AP Exams, or CLEP Exams, all of which are administered by College Board. More on those later…) The SAT IIs are one-hour multiple choice tests, in specific subject areas:  Literature, US History, World History, Mathematics Level 1, Mathematics Level 2, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, French with Listening, Chinese with Listening, German, German with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening, Latin, Spanish, Spanish with Listening. Not all schools require the SAT subject tests, but most of the highly selective colleges and universities require one, two, or three subject tests in addition to the SAT. You cannot earn college credit with the subject tests, but they certainly can make your application more competitive, assuming you’ve done well.

Here’s a twist: Your child cannot figure out which SAT subject tests he or she will need to take until he or she determines where s/he wants to go. Different colleges and universities have different requirements, and you have to figure it out one by one. Now, it is true that you probably want to take your subject tests in the areas where you are academically strongest.  But you will have to figure out if your dream college requires physics or chemistry, even if you are gunning for a liberal arts degree.

My very brilliant child took two subject tests last Saturday. She will score somewhere between 200 and 800. Naturally, we are expecting 800s, but you never know. She figured out that she should take World History and Chemistry this spring, after her sophomore year, when the information was freshest in her mind. Good idea. Now I hope she figures out the rest of this testing mess. To AP or not to AP? In the same subject as the subject test? What is the CLEP, and how is it different from the AP? You can earn college credit through the AP and the CLEP, so how are they different, and are these tests like the SAT and SAT subject tests, just more data for college admissions officers to consider when her application hits their desk? When she figures it all out, I will be sure to pass it on. 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Sheeesh, how we long for the days when the classes were just History, Math and English – – each numbered for its year in sequence. Freshman English (ENG 1) led to Sophomore English (ENG 2) and so forth. How simplistic; it is a wonder the world survived to greet these students with the avalanche of acronyms which will (doubtless) help them develop into the finest stewards of the planet since whats-his-name and Eve.

  2. Dear Jim, you are singing my song! But that ain’t the world these kids are living in. They are coming of age in a global economy where they had better be better at what they are doing than the folks in Mumbai. We believe their education is the ticket, which is why we pay the high price for it. I hope they can survive their youth (which is admittedly different from ours) to enjoy their adulthood. Maybe they can fix what we have not been able to, and steward the planet on for their kids.

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