May 18, 2020
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.