While prepping for the SAT, students often ask how many times they should take the test. The short answer? You can take it as many times as you want, but that doesn’t mean you should.
How Many Times Can You Take the SAT?
Currently, there is no limit to the number of times a student can take the official SAT. There are 7 tests administered each year, which gives students a total of 14 times they could sit for the test over their junior and senior years. While it may be tempting to take the test as many times as possible, this approach won’t maximize scores. In fact, there is a general sweet spot for students looking to make the most out of their time and test prep.
How Many Times Should You Take the SAT?
Students should expect to take the official test three times, give or take one dependent on individual needs. We recommend three because it represents the three different periods of test prep with Testive. The initial prep time, before the first official test, is the longest – usually ranging between 6-8 weeks. This prep time contains the majority of the work a student will do in terms of learning strategies and equations necessary to feel prepared. By the time their first official test arrives, students are usually prepared to do better on one or more sections.
After the first test, students have options: they can either continue prepping for the next test immediately (especially if there is a special scheduling situation such as a need for a test score by a certain date for college applications), or they can take a brief break and start prep again when they receive their scores. The important thing is that students dedicate their practice to the areas where they most need improvement. There’s no point in continuing work on the Reading section only to find out you got a perfect score on it! That next period of prep after their scores and before their second official test usually runs 4-6 weeks with test prep coaches assigning specific work to match specific needs.
After they receive scores from their second test, students may be more hesitant to test a third time. We understand no high school junior wants to spend their precious Saturday mornings sitting for the SAT every weekend! That being said, the third test is sometimes where students can usually eke out a few more points to help push their score even higher! And with super scoring and score select (which we will talk about in an upcoming section) even just a few more points in a particular section can provide a great benefit!
Why not take the SAT a few more times?
After three times, scores tend to reflect the law of diminishing returns, meaning it gets harder and harder to get scores up for a variety of factors. Whether because a student is burned out by testing or has too much going on in their life otherwise with in school work, more than three times is usually not necessary.
That being said, there are of course always exceptions to the rule! We’ve had students at Testive who have scored better on their fifth or sixth time sitting for the official test, and that’s fine too! However, those are students who have come to Testive after having taken the test multiple times. We do not recommend planning for this approach.
Students are always the best advocates of what they need and what they think they will benefit most from test taking wise, and coaches will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with them about taking more official tests. One of the great benefits of Testive however, is the ability to take practice tests as diagnostic tools instead of relying solely on official ones.
Official Versus Practice Tests
It is important to differentiate here between the official tests College Board offers versus the practice tests we offer at Testive (or at other reputable test prep providers). Over the course of a student’s program, they will take several practice tests that mirror the SAT, but do not count toward the official scores they will send to colleges. These offer students a chance to practice taking full tests so they feel comfortable and prepared for the timing and patience necessary to sit for the full three and a half hour test. They also allow students to get a better idea of what they still need to work on without having to pay for a full official test!
Of course, cost is always a factor while taking standardized tests as they are not cheap! It costs $47.50 to take the SAT ($64.50 with the essay portion). This price point is part of the reason we do our best to provide as many practice tests from Testive as possible, so students and parents can avoid paying the official test fee more than they need to!
Score Choice and Super Scoring
Students and parents often worry about sending too many test scores, or that colleges will see bad scores from individual test dates and hold that against the students. Neither is the case. Most schools offer either Score Choice or Super Scoring when weighing SAT scores in the college admissions process.
Super Scoring means that a school will take your individual highest section scores from every official SAT you send them. Say for example you scored a 710 on Math and a 600 on Critical Reading on one test, but on another you scored a 690 on Math and a 750 on Critical Reading; a school with Super Scoring would take the 710 on Math and 750 on Critical Reading as your final score.
Score Choice means you can choose which of your official tests you want to send, but a school won’t mix and match section scores. In this case, you will just send whichever test you took has the highest composite score across all sections. An exception might be that you were applying to a STEM heavy school that really only cared about your math score, so in that case you would just send whichever test your highest math section score was on!
A few schools, like Harvard and Yale, offer neither option and require students to send all scores, so make sure to double check what kind of scoring the schools you are applying to require!
Scheduling/When To Register
The earlier you can register for an official test you know you are going to sit for the better. You can register for any test in the school year once they appear on the SAT’s calendar, and the deadline to register is usually three to four weeks before the test date. Late registration usually lasts up until one week before the official test and can be done online over the phone for an additional fee.
If you attend a public school you may automatically be signed up for free to take the SAT or ACT, dependent on what state you live in, sometime in the spring of your junior year. Check with your school counselor for details about when/where that will occur.