It’s the most dreaded day of your life. You’re in a room, surrounded by people you don’t know – and expected to answer questions on topics you probably didn’t study for. All this – just so you can get into college.
This begs the question – how many times can you take the SAT?
There are a lot of myths out there about how many times you can take the SAT. It’s an important question to ask, so it’s worth knowing your options and understanding what this test means for you.
You may think you can take the SAT as many times as you want, but that’s not true. There are certain rules and regulations to follow so that your scores will be valid. If you’ve already taken the SAT, then it’s too late for this information to help you because your scores have been submitted.
But if you haven’t yet taken the test, here is what you need to know.
How Many Times Can You Take the SAT?
The short answer to the question of how many times you can take the SAT is – as many as you’d like.
In fact, most college prep experts recommend that students take the exam twice. This should be once in the spring of the junior year and then once more, in the fall of the senior year. The second time around, you’re more likely to get a higher score.
The good news is that most colleges consider your highest SAT score when making their admissions decisions. In many cases, if you improve your SAT score by at least 100 points higher in total than your first time around you could be eligible to receive an Improve our Score scholarship of $2,000.
There is another incentive to taking the SAT more than once, too, and that is that many universities utilize a procedure called “superscoring.” Superscoring is when a school combines a top mathematics score with the highest reading and writing scores, even if those top scores are from different test dates.
Ultimately, most college experts recommend avoiding taking the test more than six times. Not only will you likely not show much improvement, but having that many test scores on file might show college officials that you aren’t taking the exam seriously. If you aren’t seeing much improvement between test dates, it might be time to rethink your approach to the test.
Reasons to Take the SAT More Than Once
There are several reasons to consider taking the SAT more than one time. Here are some of the most common – and some of the best.
The most obvious reason why you might consider retaking the SAT is to improve your overall school.
In general, almost every student will improve when they retake the test. No matter how hard you study in advance of that first test, there’s nothing like real-world testing experience to show you exactly how the test is laid out – and give you the experience you need to conquer it the next time.
Retaking the test to improve your combined score is especially beneficial if you put the time into studying things that didn’t quite jive with you the first time around. If there were concepts you missed out on or certain question wording that didn’t make sense, it’s a good idea to brush up on these areas before you retake the SAT.
Some students would rather improve their individual section scores, strategically building them up section by section. This is beneficial if your college participates in something called “superscoring,” which is taking the highest scores by section across all the times you sat for the test.
If your college superscore, you could theoretically focus on math for one date, reading for another, and then writing and language for the third. Doing this (often treating the other sections as “throwaways”) can be a gamble if you aren’t sure if superscoring is allowed – but it might be helpful for students who feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of content they are expected to master prior to sitting for the exam.
Score Choice is a unique and highly beneficial feature offered by College Board in which you can send only your best SAT scores to colleges and universities. Not all universities and colleges let you do this – some may require that you submit all of your scores, good or bad, or that you just submit your best total score (combined) from a certain test date.
To find out whether your school accepts Score Choice, you can give the admissions office a call. If you want to save the call, just check the College Board’s BigFuture site for information (but be aware that policies do change often, so this information might not be up to date).
Do Colleges Look at How Many Times You Take the SAT?
While most colleges do look at how many times you took the SAT, there are very few that actually care.
Most schools, if not all, won’t care that you took the SAT two or more times. Some schools may not even see that you took all those tests if you only send certain sets of scores.
The exception to this, again, is if you take the test more than half a dozen times, as it can indicate that you aren’t taking the test as seriously as you should.
Taking the SAT: General Tips
Ready to ace the SAT – the first time around? Here are some tips.
1. Start Studying as a Sophomore
When it comes to preparing for and taking the SAT, the key here is to start practicing early – and often. Start studying for the SAT in the summer before our junior year. Use online prep resources, practice tests, SAT prep books, or classes – do anything you want, but do something. This will give you plenty of time to master the content and format of the exam.
2. Register Early
Again, the early bird gets the worm. Register as early as you can for the SAT, ideally for all the test dates you know you want to take. If you know you plan to take the test twice, go ahead and grab those dates while you can – and pencil them in on your calendar so you can create a strategic, organized plan of study.
3. Consider SAT Prep Resources
When it comes to studying for the SAT, there are all kinds of prep resources out there – and there’s something for everyone, regardless of your learning style.
Like to learn in a group? Sign up for a class and you’ll definitely be held accountable. Would you rather study by yourself? Flashcards, apps, and online classes are great options. Need some one-on-one help? Look into getting an SAT tutor to help you study.
4. Get a Study Buddy
If you want the accountability of an SAT prep class but don’t want to commit to weekly sessions, consider finding yourself a study buddy. Chances are you’ve got a pal or two who is also trying to cram for this test. Hold each other accountable and hold regular sessions – you’ll be much more successful when you tackle the test with a buddy!
5. Try Some Digital Resources
We live in the digital age, so don’t be afraid of tapping into digital resources as you’re preparing for one of the most difficult exams of your life.
There are all kinds of websites and apps out there that can help you prepare for the rigors of this exam, including:
6. Don’t Neglect Self-Care
Remember, a score is just a score – it’s important that you not overstress the process of preparing for the SAT. Prioritize your own health and wellbeing, even if that is at the expense of your scores. Proper rest, nutrition, and exercise are key!
7. Talk to the Admissions Office
Before you make any decisions about how many times you’ll take the SAT, be sure to talk to the admissions office at your school of choice. This will give you an idea of whether it’s even necessary.
You need to find out what kind of scores your school is looking for as well as whether they are part of Score Choice. Not all schools accept Score Choice so you may not benefit from taking the SAT multiple times.
How Many SAT Tests is Too Many? Things to Consider
Still can’t decide? Here are some tips as you try to figure out how many times to take the SAT.
You’ll Share the Bad Scores, Too
It’s not just the good stuff you’ll be sharing – you’ll also have to send in the bad ones. While some schools will allow you to selectively submit test scores for various dates and sections, that’s not true for all.
It Costs a Lot of Money – and Can Waste Your Time
Taking the SAT isn’t cheap. With the essay, it will cost you nearly $65 for each registration. While that one-time fee may not break the bank, it can certainly add up if you take the SAT once, twice, three, or four times.
Of course, it can be a waste of time, too. You’ll likely find out if this is the case pretty quickly – if your scores aren’t budging by more than a few points each time you take the SAT, it might be time to throw in the towel.
You May Develop Test Fatigue
Take the SAT a bazillion times and you’re likely going to develop test fatigue. This is a very real phenomenon that will cause you to become burned out and frustrated.
It can also cause you to feel disenchanted and to focus less on other aspects of your college application (and, you know, your life) such as schoolwork, clubs and sports, and community service.
It’s Only One Part of Your College Application
Remember, the SAT (and other standardized tests) comprise only a small portion of your total college application. It’s important that you pay attention to other aspects of your application, too, such as your essays, extracurriculars, and GPA.
While certain admissions officials look at specific aspects of each application more than others, it is a very individualized process. In general, it’s better to have an application that is strong in several areas rather than one that is only strong in regards to standardized tests. The best test scores in the world can’t make up for a low GPA or a lack of personal depth (as evidenced by essays, extracurriculars, and other factors).
Don’t Forget the ACT
Another thing to keep in mind when prepping for the SAT (and trying to figure out how many times you want to take it) is whether you’re going to take the ACT. This test, for some students, is more manageable and has a different format, so it might be beneficial if you find yourself struggling on the SAT specifically.
What SAT Score Do I Need?
So what SAT score do you need? That varies – which is yet another reason why it’s a good idea to get in touch with the colleges you’re applying to prior to taking the test (for the first, second, fifth, or umpteenth time!).
Taking the SAT test more than once can have some benefits. You may be able to improve your score or get access to a wider range of colleges if you take it multiple times.
This is great news for high school students who want to wait until they feel confident about their scores before submitting them, as well as those who are just nervous on exam day and could use another shot at success!
If you’re looking into taking the SAT again because you didn’t do so hot last time, now’s the perfect time to register.
Of course, before taking the SAT, or any other college entrance exam for that matter, it’s important to know your limits – as well as what content will be covered on the exam. Put some time into studying for the test and have a plan in place to hit your goals.
No matter what your target scores might be, proper planning (and plenty of prepwork!) are key to acing the exam – regardless of how many times you take it!
Is it bad to take the SAT 3 times?
You can take the SAT as many times as you would like. There are no restrictions for registering for the test so you can feasibly take it up to seven times per year (which is how many test dates there are). While this isn’t necessarily recommended, we wouldn’t call it “bad,” perse.
Do colleges look at how many times you take the SAT?
Yes and no. While colleges have the ability to see how many times you took the SAT, they’ll only see the scores you send them – and since you don’t have to send them all of your scores, they don’t necessarily have to see something you don’t want them to.
Is taking the SAT 4 times too much?
Again, it’s all a matter of perspective. In general, most college admissions officials recommend taking the test fewer than six times. This shows that you’re taking each attempt seriously.
How many attempts are allowed for SAT?
You can take the SAT an unlimited number of times but there are only seven testing dates per year.