As a Testive coach, I often hear students ask themselves if a good score is “good enough,” or wonder how many times the SAT is worth taking in the hopes of an improved score. Generally, it feels like taking the SAT again is an obvious choice if you’re dissatisfied with your score, but retaking the test can cost you time and money, and distract you from other important elements of applying to college, like crafting your admissions essays. If you’re wondering whether or not you should retake the SAT, there are several questions you should ask yourself before making a decision:
How Far Is My Current Score From My Ideal Score?
Most students have an “ideal score” that they walk into the test hoping to attain—they want to “break” 1400 or 1500, for instance. One of the biggest temptations for high-achieving students is to retake the test until the get their ideal score or as close as they can—and this can be a great idea! However, the difference in score isn’t always worth it. For instance, if you scored a 1480, and you were hoping to get to 1500, you may be better off keeping your initial score and focusing on perfecting other aspects of your application.
You should retake the SAT if your ideal score is in reach, reaching that score will significantly open up your opportunities for college and you have time to prepare. (I’ll get to those second points later.)
What Score Do I “Need”?
While hardly any colleges will explicitly state “You need to score X on the SAT for admittance,” it’s common for schools to publish a “range” of scores for the students they admit (“The incoming Class of 2021 on average scored between X and Y on the SAT”). If you are close to that range for your first-choice school, but not quite there, retaking the SAT after some extensive study and test prep can be an excellent way to boost your odds of admittance.
How do I find the score I need?
- If you have a handful of target colleges in mind, you can locate their average SAT score of admitted students
- The average SAT score of admitted students for the previous year is a good approximation of the score that will help your chances of getting in.
- Visit a college’s website, then navigate to their admissions page to locate this information.
- If a college doesn’t state the average SAT score of admitted students, you can find an unofficial score from a third-party site like College Simply with a quick Google search.
What Happened the Last Time I Took the Test?
One extremely important question to ask yourself when you consider whether or not to retake the test is whether or not your first test was affected by extenuating circumstances. For instance, if you had a bad cold the day of your first test, if you didn’t get enough rest the night before the test or if you had just received some startling personal news the night before which kept you from sleeping well, these could have a profound effect on your test performance. Sometimes extenuating circumstances prevent you from doing your best on a specific test day, and this can’t be avoided. If that was the case when you last took the SAT, then retaking the test, particularly after going through some test prep to keep the test materials fresh in your mind, can be an excellent idea.
How Heavily Will My Score Be Weighed?
This is not a fact that’s often discussed, but different applications can be weighed in different ways. If you’re applying to college for the creative arts, for instance, your SAT score is certainly still important, but probably not as important as your portfolio or your audition, as the case may be. If that’s the case, focusing on an SAT retake instead of rehearsing for an audition or enhancing your portfolio might not be the best idea. On the other hand, if you’re applying to a university’s engineering program, it’s most likely vital that you do well on your SAT Math Test, and retaking after extensive study to boost your score is probably a good and practical decision.
How do I figure out how heavily my score will be weighed?
- If you have dialed in on a specific academic program, you might find that your admissions criteria weighs some aspects more than others
- The best way to find out which parts of your admissions profile matter the most is to speak with an admissions officer from that school
How Will the Schools I’m Applying to Read My Scores?
Be sure to check the schools you’re applying to for their policies regarding multiple SAT scores. Does the school you’re applying to weigh your highest score, or your most recent? If they weigh your highest score, then retaking the test cannot possibly hurt you, but only help you. If, however, your school weighs your most recent score, regardless of whether your earlier scores were higher, proceed with caution. If your school weighs your most recent score, and you do decide to retake the test, be certain to study hard and develop a plan of action so that you can be certain your score will be improved when you retake the test.
Do I Have Time?
This is a question of simple practicality. When are your college applications due? What’s the last test date you can take for your schools to still consider it? And furthermore, do you have time between now and test day to adequately prepare for a retake? These practical considerations are important to bear in mind before you schedule a test retake.You can look ahead to SAT test dates here.
Going forward, you can stay on top of SAT test dates and deadlines by signing up for the College Radar, our newsletter for parents about staying on top of college admissions.
Do I Have a Strategy?
This last question is quite possibly the most important. The SAT is not like a roulette wheel—retaking the test again and again at random in the hopes that you’ll land a better score will just leave you exhausted and frustrated. If you want to retake the SAT, you’ll need a strategy of how to approach it. Take a look at your previous test: what areas do you need to improve on? What areas are already your strengths? How will your study plan for your retake differ from your first test, and what strategies worked well and can be kept?
It’s important to develop a concrete plan of action when you’re studying for your retake. Whether that means reviewing vocabulary flashcards every day, or doing intensive review of a particular math concept you’ve struggled with, identifying your weak points and working to strengthen them is vital. You might also consider looking to one-on-one Coaching, like with Testive, especially if you haven’t before. An individualized strategy and someone “on your team” keeping you accountable and helping you along as you prepare for your test.
How do I make a concrete plan for my next SAT?
- Take a look at your SAT results and point out the content areas, like Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analytics, where you scored the lowest
- Make a prep plan that focuses on those content areas
- We kick off Testive Coaching programs by uploading your practice test scores to Testive learning software. Then, your Coach will create a curriculum designed to improve these weak areas
Once you’ve looked over your circumstances and determined if retaking the test is right for you, the next step is registering for the test and beginning your course of action for test prep. Remember, retaking the test can be a major boost to your college application, so study hard, and good luck!