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Articles / Admissions / How Will Admission Committees View Chinese Scores from China Resident?

May 18, 2020

How Will Admission Committees View Chinese Scores from China Resident?

Question: I am a US Citizen who has lived overseas my entire life in China. I have taken SAT II tests, two which are in the 700's. I was wondering if, being that one of those tests is in Chinese, my score will be given less merit? Are language tests not as highly looked upon? Are there ever conditions where the subject of the SAT II is very important?

Your Chinese SAT score will probably be given less merit by some colleges because of your situation. However, if Chinese is not spoken in your home, then you will get a little bit more "credit" for your good score than if it were.


In general, language tests are well respected as long as they are not in a language that would be considered the applicant's native tongue.

The subject of the test is usually most important when a student is applying to colleges that require specific tests. Typically, this means math and science tests for those aiming for tech schools such as MIT. But whenever a student's application points to a strong interest in a particular field such as medicine, then the corresponding tests (in this case, the biology test and/or other sciences) can play a more starring role than they would for a student who has indicated a passion for art history or philosophy. Similarly, if an applicant's references tout his or her talent in a particular area (e.g., history, foreign language) but the corresponding Subject Test score is particularly weak, it might cast aspersion on the teacher or counselor who wrote the reference, spurring admission folks to wonder, "Does that teacher or counselor really have a clue about what 'talent' really is?"

Colleges are usually most impressed when a student has done well in diverse Subject Tests ... a foreign language plus a science plus history.

Regardless of your test scores, your application to American colleges will be strengthened if you can convey to admission officials what you've gained from living your whole life overseas and how it will benefit your campus community. You don't have to state this explicitly in your essays or in the "Additional Information' section on applications ("This is what I've gained and will bring to your school ..."), but you can show it in your writing, in your extracurricular undertakings, etc. If admission officials view you as a "bridge-builder"--someone who is not only comfortable in two cultures but who can help those from each one to come together--then this could be a plus for you at decision time.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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