Should I retake the SAT or ACT?

There is no magic number for how many times you should take the SAT or ACT. You may find taking the SAT once is enough for you. Or, you might want to take the ACT two or three times. There are no penalties for taking the SAT or ACT multiple times. You may decide to take the SAT and ACT to see if you will do better on one than the other. So, how many times should you take college entrance exams? The answer lies with you and the colleges you are considering. Keep the following things in mind when deciding if you should retake the SAT or ACT.

  • Required test scores for admission. Some colleges have required test scores. If you meet or exceed those requirements, there may be no need to take the test again. If you do not meet the requirement, you will need to take the test again.
  • Average test scores. Many colleges do not have required test scores, but will quote average test scores when asked about admission requirements. Average test scores are the average test scores of the previous year’s admitted or enrolled students. Colleges will typically want to bring in students who fall within average or above average. If you are in the average range or below, you may want to consider retaking the test. If you are above the average and the rest of your application meets or exceeds what the colleges are looking for in an applicant, you may not need to take the test again.
  • Scholarship requirements. Many scholarships, including merit awards from colleges and universities, require specific test scores. For college merit awards, some are very specific about the score requirement, while others are awarded on a sliding scale based on GPA and test scores. Learn about the requirements of the awards, or play around with the net price calculators on the college websites to see what happens if you were to increase your test scores. If there is a chance of increasing your financial aid award, it may be worth it to retake the test.
  • Athletic requirements. If you are planning on competing in college athletics, there are specific requirements student-athletes must meet. If you have not met the eligibility requirements to compete, you must retake the test if you want to play or compete in college.
  • Chances of doing better. Sometimes you know you will do better on the test if you retake it. Maybe you were distracted or not feeling well the first time you took the test. If circumstances were different, you would probably do better. Or, maybe you did not prepare before the test. But, now that you have taken the test, you know what to expect. If you know you will probably do better, take the test again.
  • Selectivity of the institution. Even if you meet the average test scores of a selective institution, it might not be enough to be admitted. Unfortunately selective institutions are typically selective because they receive way too many applications from highly qualified students and they just don’t have enough space for everyone. Therefore, if there is a chance to increase your test scores to make you stand out even more as an applicant, you might consider retaking the test.

The one thing you should never do is view your first SAT or ACT as a practice test. There are many test prep resources available to students, including free resources for students who do not have the funds to pay for a high-priced test prep tutoring company.  You can even sample previous tests and questions from the SAT and ACT prior to taking the test. Reviewing previous tests will help you get acquainted with the format and type of questions you should anticipate. Go into your first SAT or ACT as if it is your only chance to take the test. Why waste your time and money if you are not going to put your into the test?

Most colleges do not have a preference for the test you submit. However, they may use your test scores differently. Therefore, check with each of the colleges you are considering to learn how they use test scores. Some colleges will use your highest test score when making decisions. This includes students who take the SAT and ACT. Many colleges will use the concordance chart to determine your best test score, but not all colleges will do this. Some colleges will also superscore your SAT scores (taking the highest score from each section to determine your SAT score). However, some colleges might look at each individual test sitting.

If you are still unsure if you should retake the test or not, speak with individuals who can provide further guidance. Your school counselor may have more insight into the admission processes at the colleges you are considering. You can also go to the sources and talk to the admission officers at the colleges. Admission officers know the admission process at their institutions and can provide guidance on your admission profile, including test scores. While they will not guarantee your admission to the institution, an admission officer can give you a good idea as to the type of score you should try to obtain for admission and financial aid purposes.

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One Comment on “Should I retake the SAT or ACT?

  1. I recommend my students take and retake the SAT/ACT only when they have scored at their target score on two consequetive practice tests.

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