Should You Take the SAT More than Once?

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If you are a young person who has always dreamed of attending a prestigious college, then you’ve likely already started making basic preparations for the college application process. Maybe you’ve followed a few students at your dream school on Instagram or you’ve learned more about the school’s history than even the school tour guides know. True over-achievers may even of a complete list of courses they want to take while in college.

While thinking forward to college is exciting, don’t get too ahead of yourself. You still have a major obstacle between now and college admissions: taking the SAT. Maybe you’ve already taken the test once and aren’t thrilled by your scores. Or, you did great but still want to push yourself and see what you can achieve. Either way, you’re likely asking yourself, should I take the test more than once? If so, how many times should I take it?

If this question is haunting you, hopefully, this SAT guide will help you out.

SAT Basics

Before moving further, let’s take a look at what the SAT is.

The SAT, also known as the Scholastic Assessment Test, is an exam administered by an independent agency and sent to colleges. Its purpose is to assess the verbal and mathematical ability of applicants. Students in their junior or senior year of high school are eligible to take the test on any of the seven annual testing dates at testing centers located around the country.

The SAT was first conducted in 1926 and later went through many revisions to align itself with the modern trends in the educational sector. The latest version comprises of two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. There’s also the optional Essay section.

One of the most critical features of the new version is the composite score of 200 to 800 through the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (52 reading and 33 writing questions) and 200 to 800 from the Math section (58 Questions). The maximum total score is 1600. The optional Essay section score is calculated separately and it doesn’t affect the scores of the other areas.

The SAT lasts for 3 hours, and an additional 50 minutes are given for the Essay section. Students who wish to take the SAT can find the SAT dates for 2020 beforehand and register promptly.

The Big Question

Now, back to the main question—how many times can you take the SAT?

The thing is, you can take the SAT as many times as you want. Unlike the ACT, the College Board doesn’t place any restrictions on how many times and how often students can take the SAT. When you do apply to a college, the file will only hold your most recent six scores even if you have taken the test 20 times.

However, the safest maximum number of SAT attempts tends to be around four to five. Any more can indicate a lack of preparation and nervousness.

Here are a few cons of taking the SAT over and over:

  • While the College Board allows students to choose which test scores they share with colleges through the Score Choice feature, some colleges want you to submit all of your SAT scores. Thus, you will sometimes be forced to share even your bad scores. Before applying to your favorite colleges, make sure that you read their policies regarding sending SAT scores.
  • No matter how frequently you attempt the SAT, if you aren’t prepared, your scores aren’t going to improve much. Nevertheless, with the College Board’s open-ended testing policy, many students end up executing this plan. Not only is this a waste of hundreds of dollars, but you also end up wasting a lot of your time.

So, although you can take the SAT countless times, it is best to take the exam at most four to five times. Instead of re-taking the test, you’re best off spending that time and energy in preparation.

How it All Fits Together

The SAT is just one aspect of the college admission process. In the end, you have to focus on how you prepare more than how many times you can take the test.

Take a look at this recommended test timeline to score better on the SAT:

  • To get an idea about your starting score, take a free practice SAT at home.
  • Research your favorite colleges and find out what the average SAT scores are for accepted students.
  • Analyze the difference between your starting score and the target score and decide on a test prep plan.
  • Register for two back-to-back SAT dates. Keep the third and fourth potential dates in reserve if you wish to mint a few extra points.

The SAT is Just One Part of the College Application

Always remember that even if you fall short of your dream school’s average SAT score, it’s just an average and not an absolute. Also, some colleges have dropped the SAT/ACT admissions requirement. So, there is a chance you can get into a great college without taking the SAT. However, you should make every attempt count and try to bag the best possible score by taking practice tests beforehand. If you are determined, you can conquer the SATs and earn a spot at the college of your choice.