One question high school students commonly ask about the SAT is, “How many times should I take the SAT?” Many are unsure of how many times they will need to take the test to achieve their score goals or what colleges will think if they take it numerous times. Given how important SAT scores can be in college admissions, students want to make sure they’re doing what’s best with regard to taking the SAT.
So, in this article, I’ll discuss some factors that affect how many times you should take the SAT. I’ll also identify a minimum and maximum number of times that most students should take the test.
Here are the topics we’ll cover:
- Does It Matter to Colleges How Many Times You Take the Sat?
- What Is Superscoring?
- Other Reasons to Take the SAT More Than Once
- Is There a Limit to How Many Times You Should Take the Sat?
- How Many Times Should You Take the SAT?: Key Takeaways
- What’s Next?
Let’s start by answering some important questions regarding how colleges feel about how many times you take the SAT.
Does It Matter to Colleges How Many Times You Take the Sat?
One thing you may have heard is that colleges look askance at applicants who have taken the SAT more than a few times. And it’s true that, in the past, some admissions officers took the fact that an applicant had taken the SAT numerous times as indicating something negative about the applicant.
For instance, some admissions officers felt that an applicant who had taken the SAT more than three or four times was perhaps neglecting other things, such as extracurriculars, or not planning well. Of course, it’s not necessarily the case that something problematic is going on when someone takes the SAT more than four times. All the same, there was a risk that a student’s doing so would be perceived negatively.
However, things have changed significantly, and how many times you take the SAT has become almost a nonissue. Part of the reason why is something called Score Choice. Let’s discuss why Score Choice makes such a big difference.
Why Score Choice Means It Doesn’t Matter How Many Times You Take the SAT
In the past, the College Board, the maker of the SAT, would send all of a test-taker’s SAT scores to colleges. However, now, the College Board offers Score Choice, allowing you to send colleges only the SAT scores you want to send.
So, if for instance you took the SAT six times, you could send only your best two scores to colleges. In that case, your score report would look the same as it would if you had taken the SAT twice.
Now, it’s true that not all colleges allow the use of Score Choice. Some still want to see all your SAT scores. However, the vast majority of colleges do allow the use of Score Choice. In fact, the percentage of colleges that allow Score Choice has increased even over the past few years. So, it’s likely that any school you’re applying to allows Score Choice.
Meanwhile, some colleges that ask for all your scores use software that provides only your highest SAT section scores to admissions. Others ask for SAT score reports only after you’re admitted, using the score reports only to confirm that scores you self-reported are accurate.
The upshot of all this is that, because of Score Choice and new policies, it’s likely that you don’t have to worry about how many times you take the SAT. Of course, you should still check with schools you’re planning to apply to. However, in most cases, they’ll have one of the policies discussed above.
Because of Score Choice and new policies, it’s likely that you don’t have to worry about how many times you take the SAT.
Another college admissions policy that affects how many times you should take the SAT is superscoring. So, let’s talk about that, too.
What Is Superscoring?
One of the main reasons admissions officers consider SAT scores is to determine whether you’re ready to handle their schools’ coursework. Meanwhile, they know that SAT test-takers don’t always get their best Reading and Writing and Math scores on the same day. So, to get an accurate picture of applicants’ skills and keep things simple, many schools do what is known as superscoring. Superscoring is using an applicant’s highest SAT Reading and Writing score and highest SAT Math score as that applicant’s SAT score.
Why Superscoring Means You Should Probably Take the SAT More Than Once
Many schools superscore these days. What this means is that, unless you score super high on the SAT the first time you take it, you should probably take the SAT more than once. After all, it’s to your advantage to have multiple opportunities to do your best on the SAT because schools that superscore will consider only your highest scores on the sections.
Also, most schools that superscore are not concerned with how many times you took the SAT. As we touched on earlier, many even use software that presents only your best SAT section scores to admissions. So, in many cases, superscoring is another reason why it doesn’t really matter to colleges how many times you take the SAT.
TTP PRO TIP:
Because of superscoring, for most people, it makes sense to take the SAT more than once.
OK, now that we’ve discussed one reason to take the SAT more than once, the use of superscoring, let’s discuss some other reasons to take the SAT more than once.
Other Reasons to Take the SAT More Than Once
Along with superscoring, there are a few other reasons to take the SAT more than once. In fact, the College Board recommends that high school students take the SAT at least twice, once in the spring of their junior year and once in the fall of their senior year. Meanwhile, many students take the SAT three times.
One reason why students take the SAT more than once is that retaking allows them to use the experience gained taking the SAT the first time to do better the second time. Another reason is that seeing how you do the first time can help you understand what to focus your SAT prep on so that you achieve your score goal the next time. Also, from the spring of your junior year to the fall of your senior year, you grow and learn. So, you should be better prepared for later SATs than for your first one.
In fact, a study found that most students who retook the SAT scored higher on their retakes than on their first SATs. Of course, this outcome isn’t surprising, but it’s still good to know that the reality matches what we’d expect.
In addition, we all have better and worse days, and a variety of other factors can affect how you score on the SAT. So, by taking it more than once, you give yourself a greater chance of scoring as high as you’re able to.
TTP PRO TIP:
By taking the SAT more than once, you can benefit from experience, additional learning and growth, and improved odds of doing your best.
So, we’ve seen that it’s a good idea to take the SAT more than once. However, is there a limit to how many times you should take it? Let’s discuss.
Is There a Limit to How Many Times You Should Take the Sat?
As you may be aware, the SAT is offered on seven test dates every year, and students can take the SAT in multiple years. Meanwhile, you are allowed to take the SAT as many times as you want. So, theoretically, you could take the SAT many times before application deadlines. However, there’s one main thing limiting how many times you should take the SAT, and that’s time.
Preparing for and taking the SAT takes time, and any time you spend on the SAT is time you could have spent increasing your GPA, doing extracurriculars, volunteering, and so on. So, for most people applying to college, taking the SAT more than a few times doesn’t make sense.
Moreover, if your SAT test prep approach is effective, you shouldn’t have to take the SAT more than a few times. After all, you can get some experience by taking it a first time, tune up your skills and score higher the second time, and do even better if you take it a third time. Thus, you should be set by the third (or possibly fourth) time. So, if you start getting the impression that you need to take the SAT more than a few times, it’s likely that what you really need to do is prepare more effectively.
Now, there are cases in which people should take the SAT several times. So, it may be best for you to take the SAT more than a few times — only you know your unique situation. My point is simply that such a plan doesn’t make sense for most people.
TTP PRO TIP:
For most students, it makes sense to plan to take the SAT a maximum of four times.
So, what are the takeaways from all this? Let’s take a look.
How Many Times Should You Take the SAT?: Key Takeaways
Here’s what we’ve seen regarding how many times you should take the SAT:
- Because of Score Choice and admissions policies, most colleges don’t know or really care how many times you take the SAT.
- It benefits you to take the SAT more than once to take advantage of superscoring and because, by retaking the SAT, you gain experience and give yourself multiple opportunities to do your best.
- For most people it doesn’t make sense to take the SAT more than a few times because taking the SAT takes time that could be spent on other things and because, if you’re preparing effectively, you shouldn’t need to take it many times.
- Accordingly, most people should take the SAT at least twice and not more than four times.