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What Is a Good SAT Subject Test Score?

Posted by Rebecca Safier | Sep 15, 2019, 9:00:00 PM

SAT Subject Tests

 

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What's a good Subject Test score? This might sound like a straightforward question, but it's actually a little more complicated. What makes a good score varies by SAT Subject Test as the number of test takers differs from test to test. For instance, in 2017 more than 140,000 students took the Math Level II Test, more than 48,000 students took the Literature Test, and only 453 took the Modern Hebrew Test.

As you'll see below, most good scores for SAT Subject Tests are in the 700s, but there are other factors to consider as you set your target scores. Let's take a look at the average scores and percentiles so you can know what a good score is for each individual SAT Subject Test.

While we'll be looking at statistics and college requirements to answer this question, it's also important you learn to define what "good" means to you. Ultimately, with effort and preparation, you should be proud of the Subject Test scores you achieve!

 

What Are the Average SAT Subject Test Scores?

Good SAT Subject Test scores tend to be a fair deal higher than good scores on the general SAT since high academic achievers tend to take the Subject Tests.

The following chart shows the 2019 averages for each SAT Subject Test. For a full breakdown of what these average scores mean, check out this article.

SAT Subject Test
Mean Score
Chemistry 668
Chinese with Listening 760
Ecological Biology 622
French 623
French with Listening 673
German 621
German with Listening 618
Italian 667
Japanese with Listening 702
Korean with Listening 760
Latin 623
Literature 614
Math Level I 610
Math Level II 698
Modern Hebrew 615
Molecular Biology 654
Physics 671
Spanish 645
Spanish with Listening 664
U.S. History 647
World History 629

Source: The College Board

See how the average score for Korean with Listening is an incredibly high 760? The average for Math Level I looks like a more reasonable 610.

So a "good" score would be higher than average, maybe even in the top 25% of test takers, or top 5% if you're shooting for the Ivy League.

Based on these averages, a score of 700 could mean completely different things depending on the test. It would be a strong score on the Literature test but only slightly above average on Math Level II. And on the Korean with Listening test, a 700 would be way below average.

Now that you have a sense of the average scores for each test and why they matter for your percentile, let's look at the most recent score percentiles.

 

What Are the SAT Subject Test Score Percentiles?

Along with getting a score somewhere between 200 and 800, you also get a score percentile, which compares you with other students who took the test. Scoring in the 80th percentile, for example, means you scored higher than 80% of students.

The charts below show how scores translated to percentiles for test takers in 2019. All information is taken from the College Board.

 

Literature, History, and Math Subject Tests

Score Literature U.S. History World History Math Level I Math Level II Score
800 99 97 95 99 78 800
790 98 95 93 98 74 790
780 96 93 90 97 69 780
770 94 89 89 96 65 770
760 93 86 86 94 61 760
750 90 82 83 92 58 750
740 88 79 81 88 55 740
730 85 75 77 85 52 730
720 82 71 74 81 48 720
710 78 67 72 77 46 710
700 74 62 68 73 43 700
690 71 58 65 70 40 690
680 67 54 62 67 37 680
670 64 51 58 64 35 670
660 59 47 55 60 32 660
650 55 43 52 56 29 650
640 51 40 49 53 26 640
630 48 36 46 50 24 630

 

 

Science Subject Tests

Score Biology E Biology M Chemistry Physics Score
800 97 94 90 86 800
790 96 91 87 82 790
780 94 88 83 79 780
770 92 85 79 76 770
760 90 81 75 72 760
750 88 78 71 69 750
740 85 74 67 65 740
730 82 71 64 62 730
720 79 67 60 58 720
710 76 63 56 55 710
700 73 59 53 52 700
690 69 55 50 48 690
680 66 51 46 45 680
670 62 48 43 42 670
660 58 44 41 40 660
650 54 40 38 36 650
640 51 37 35 34 640

 

 

Language With Listening Subject Tests

Score Chinese French German Japanese Korean Spanish Score
800 61 79 96 88 64 94 800
790 45 77 96 77 49 91 790
780 35 74 93 70 37 86 780
770 30 72 91 65 30 82 770
760 25 68 89 57 26 78 760
750 22 64 83 51 22 73 750
740 20 62 81 48 19 68 740
730 17 59 77 45 16 64 730
720 15 55 73 41 14 61 720
710 14 52 70 36 12 56 710
700 13 50 66 34 11 54 700
690 11 47 63 33 10 50 690
680 10 44 61 30 10 45 680
670 9 41 57 27 8 42 670
660 8 38 54 24 8 40 660
650 7 35 52 22 7 37 650

 

 

Language (Without Listening) Subject Tests

Score French German Modern
Hebrew
Italian Latin Spanish Score
800 89 92 85 88 95 93 800
790 87 88 80 83 93 90 790
780 85 85 77 78 90 87 780
770 82 82 75 73 89 84 770
760 80 81 74 69 86 80 760
750 78 76 71 64 83 76 750
740 75 73 69 60 81 73 740
730 73 71 67 57 78 69 730
720 70 67 65 53 74 67 720
710 68 66 65 51 71 63 710
700 66 63 62 47 67 60 700
690 64 61 61 44 66 57 690
680 61 59 58 41 63 54 680
670 59 56 57 39 60 51 670
660 56 53 55 37 58 48 660
650 54 51 54 35 55 45 650
640 51 49 52 33 52 42 640
630 48 47 50 30 50 39 630

 

As you can see, there's a lot of variation in percentiles among SAT Subject Tests. That's what makes answering the question of what's a good SAT Subject Test score a bit more complicated. Some tests are considered easier than others, and percentiles can be more competitive depending on the population of test takers.

Based on this data, here are my suggestions for good and excellent scores for each test. These are the scores you should aim for if you want to achieve the 70th percentile or above, 80th percentile or above, or 90th percentile or above.

 

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Good and Excellent SAT Subject Test Scores

The last way to identify a great SAT Subject Test score is to find out which score you need in order to hit a certain percentile. Below, we've compiled all of the scores needed to reach the 70th, 80th, and 90th percentiles on each Subject Test:

Subject Test 70th %ile+ 80th %ile+ 90th %ile+
Chemistry 740-750 770-780 800
Chinese with Listening 800 800 800
Ecological Biology 690-700 720-730 760
French 720 760 800
French with Listening 760-770 800 800
German 720-730 750-760 790-800
German with Listening 710 730-740 760-770
Italian 760-770 780-790 800
Japanese with Listening 780 800 800
Korean with Listening 800 800 800
Latin 700-710 730-740 780
Literature 680-690 710-720 750
Math Level I 690 710-720 740-750
Math Level II 780-790 800 800
Modern Hebrew 740-750 790 800
Molecular Biology 720-730 750-760 780-790
Physics 750-760 780-790 800
Spanish 730-740 760 790
Spanish with Listening 740-750 760-770 780-790
U.S. History 710-720 740-750 770-780
World History 700-710 730-740 780

Source: The College Board

Some tests, such as Math Level II, Chemistry, Physics, Chinese with Listening, French, French with Listening, Italian, Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening, and Modern Hebrew, require near-perfect scores to get a high percentile!

Don't feel overwhelmed by this, though. A lot of these tests have high averages and low standard deviations, meaning that most well-prepared students are able to get a high score near or above the average. If these subjects are your strong suit, then you are statistically likely to be able to achieve a very high score.

On the flip side, if you're not so strong in math, chemistry, physics, or these other subjects, keep in mind that the grading curve is very competitive—you'll be competing with students likely bound for top engineering and technical schools, such as Caltech and MIT (or native speakers for any of the language tests). Reflect on your academic strengths and subject mastery to determine whether one of these tests is right for you.

As I mentioned earlier, good SAT Subject Test scores are higher than good scores on the general SAT. As you can see, to score in the 70th percentile or higher, you'll have to get in the 700s for almost all subject tests. 

There is one more consideration when determining good scores on the SAT Subject Tests: the colleges you're applying to. Your percentiles are comparing you with all students who took the test—but not all of these students are applying to the same colleges as you.

Therefore, it's helpful to get a sense of what the average Subject Test scores are for your colleges specifically. What scores do they expect to see? Do admitted students usually score in the low 700s or high 700s? Will the school overlook a low percentile on a Subject Test if it knows the curve for that test was particularly competitive?

Let's consider these questions a little more in-depth.

 

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Uncovering your college's requirements might take a bit of detective work.
 

 

What SAT Subject Test Scores Do Your Colleges Want?

As with all the other parts of your application, you want to know what your colleges are looking for. What SAT scores do you need? What do they consider a strong GPA? Unfortunately, colleges can be pretty evasive when it comes to giving you answers to these types of questions. Instead, they stress that it's a holistic process and that admissions officers are looking at all elements of your application to get a sense of who you are as a person.

While this is all well and good and you wouldn't want your candidacy to be boiled down only to facts and figures, it still leaves you a bit stuck when it comes to the SAT and SAT Subject Tests.

The first step you can take is to research the admissions websites of your colleges. Simply Google the name of the college along with "SAT Subject Tests" or "average SAT Subject Test scores" and you might find exactly what you're looking for. If this is a dead end, you could try calling admissions officers and asking if they will share this data (or at least their recommendations).

If you're concerned about bothering them, don't be! Lots of admissions officers have tons of valuable information and are happy to share. Plus, demonstrating that you have a vested interest in the college—for example, by speaking with people on campus, visiting the school, or even just putting your name on mailing lists—will further strengthen your application. With the college process, there's nothing helpful about playing hard to get. Put yourself out there!

If your sights are set on the Ivy League, check out our article on the Subject Test scores and requirements for the Ivy League.

Finally, let's step outside statistics and requirements and consider your own personal goals.

 

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Did you celebrate 3/14 this year? Show off your affinity for math by scoring high on the Math Subject Test.

 

How to Customize Your Target SAT Subject Test Scores

What are your personal goals for the SAT Subject Tests? Have you memorized the first 100 digits of pi, or are you always the one who calculates the tip at dinner? If you consider yourself a math whiz, then it might be very important for you to score highly on the Math Subject Test.

When I was in high school, I absolutely loved English class. Reading and analyzing books revealed new ways of thinking about the world and human relationships. Even when it was hard work, it was work I wanted to do.

This doesn't mean I was naturally able to score a perfect score on the Literature Subject Test, though. That test used a much different way of demonstrating subject mastery than my normal classwork did, especially considering its strict time limits. But I felt driven to score well, so I studied practice questions and trained myself to read passages and answer questions under tight time limits.

By reflecting on your strengths and interests, as well as by taking practice tests and scoring them yourself, you can develop your own sense of what a good Subject Test score is for you. Once you've set your target scores, tape them to your wall so you can see them every day. Sharing your goals with friends, study buddies, or family members is another good way to stay focused. 

Once you've set your goals based on this information and your colleges' expectations, you can start preparing for the SAT Subject Tests you've chosen. The College Board offers a helpful breakdown of each Subject Test in addition to practice questions. You can also check out our other resources below to answer any other questions you have about the Subject Tests or SAT.

 

What's Next?

You know what makes for good scores on the SAT Subject Tests, but have you decided which ones you're going to take? Check out our expert guide on which Subject Tests you should take.

Are you also studying for the SAT? Just as with the Subject Tests, you'll want to set score goals for yourself and work toward achieving them. Read here about good scores, bad scores, and excellent scores on the SAT.

If you're considering the ACT instead, this article breaks down the scoring system and helps you set your target ACT scores.

 

Need a little extra help prepping for your Subject Tests? We have the industry's leading SAT Subject Test prep programs (for all non-language Subject Tests). Built by Harvard grads and SAT Subject Test full or 99th %ile scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so that you get the most effective prep possible.

Learn more about our Subject Test products below:

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Rebecca Safier
About the Author

Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.



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