I’ve often heard things like, “Oh man…I missed my target score of 2300 by 20 points, should I retake the SAT to get the score I want?” or “The second time I took the SAT, my score improved by 50 points, should I try taking the SAT a third time?” Some students believe that they have nothing to lose by taking the SAT multiple times until they have achieved their ideal score, or gotten too tired of it. Yet, aside from the 4 hours each time you take the test, registration fees, and emotional and mental health, there are other factors why there is a limit to how many times you should take the SAT.
[Continue reading to find out how many times you should take the SAT…]
1. It is recommended that you take the first SAT with the intention of scoring the best you can in the first time around. You should not take the first SAT as a “test trial” because each SAT you take is recorded in your account at Collegeboard and some schools request the scores of every single SAT you have taken and not just the ‘superstore’.
2. Only take the SAT a second time if you are deeply unsatisfied with your first score and believe that you can significantly improve your score by taking it a second time. Many college admissions state that they discourage students from taking the SAT again just so they can improve their score by 50 points or so. When evaluating your application, they consider every single component and the small increment in your SAT score is highly unlikely to make a difference.
Before taking the SAT a second time, ensure that you have a valid reason to believe your score can improve. For example, if you had a bad headache the first time you took the SAT and felt like that had severely affected your performance. Or if you had experienced an uncharacteristic case of nerves during the first SAT.
Another reason to take the SAT again is if it is directly related to whether or not you will be eligible to apply for academic scholarships. For example, if you took the test the first time but missed the cutoff score by 20 points. There are a set number of score ranges that correspond to different scholarship amounts and these ranges are generally known so make sure you have all this information before taking the SAT.
3. The general consensus is that twice is generally acceptable, especially if you can prove that your score did improve significantly. Taking the SAT three times is the absolute limit!!! Many colleges frown on you taking the SAT more than that. Moreover, there is no evidence that taking the SAT multiple times changes your score significantly.
All the best!
About the author: Shimin Ooi is a junior in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs department. She has a strong interest in economic and health policy and has recently returned from a semester of study at Hertford College, Oxford. In high school, her extensive research on standardized tests helped her achieve a near perfect SAT score and perfect scores on each of her SAT Subject tests. Through these blog posts, she hopes to help others achieve test-taking success as well!