Last Updated on April 20, 2023
If you’ve started thinking about taking the SAT or you’re currently studying for the SAT, you may have heard the term “superscore” and wondered what it meant. Superscoring can be an important part of how you present your SAT performance in your college applications. However, there are some rules and policies around superscoring to take into account.
So, in this guide to superscoring the SAT, we’ll explain:
- what an SAT superscore is
- how to calculate superscores
- the difference between superscoring and score choice
- how to determine whether colleges use SAT superscores and/or allow score choice
Here are all the topics we’ll cover:
- SAT Superscore Meaning Explained
- How to Superscore SAT Tests
- Superscoring and Score Choice: What’s the Difference?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Superscoring the SAT: Key Takeaways
- What’s Next?
To start, let’s define what a superscore is.
SAT Superscore Meaning Explained
An SAT superscore is simply a composite score (that is, total score) that is calculated based on the highest section scores a test-taker earned across all of that test-taker’s SAT test dates. So, rather than use the highest overall score a student earned on any single SAT test, college admissions will take the highest section scores earned on different SAT tests and combine those section scores to form the student’s composite score.
Let’s consider an example. Say a student takes the SAT twice. On test 1, the student’s total score is 1420, with a 730 in Math and 690 in Reading and Writing. On test 2, the student’s total score is 1470, with a 700 in Math and 770 in Reading and Writing. So, the student’s composite score is higher on test 2, but the Math score on test 2 is lower.
Now, say the student submitted the SAT scores from both test dates to a school that superscores. In that case, admissions would combine the student’s 730 Math score from test 1 and 770 Reading and Writing score from test 2 to get the highest test score possible. Thus, the student’s composite score would become 730 + 770 = 1500. In other words, in the eyes of admissions, that student’s SAT score is 1500, not 1470 or 1420.
An SAT superscore uses a test-taker’s highest section scores across multiple SAT tests as that student’s composite score.
Now that we know what a superscore is, let’s delve a little deeper into how to superscore SAT tests.
How to Superscore SAT Tests
We know that your highest section scores from multiple SAT tests can be combined to produce your SAT superscore. So, superscoring the SAT obviously requires taking the SAT more than once.
The thing is, College Board (the SAT creator) is not just going to automatically generate a superscore for you based on your highest section scores from all the SATs you take. The superscore you end up with will actually depend on which SAT test attempts you report to schools — that is, if the schools you’re applying to even use SAT superscores or allow you to pick and choose which tests to report (more on that shortly).
So, when you submit SAT scores from multiple test sittings to schools, you are submitting all the scores from each test sitting you include. College Board does not include just your highest section scores, nor can you select just those section scores to send. However, some schools may allow you to self-report just your highest section scores. Furthermore, some schools may automatically generate your superscores, in which cases admissions will not see the other scores you submitted.
Your SAT superscore is not automatically generated by College Board. Rather, schools may create it, either with or without viewing your other scores, using the SAT scores you report to them.
With this in mind, let’s review the options you may have when submitting SAT score reports to colleges and universities. In particular, it’s important to distinguish between superscoring and score choice, a service provided by College Board.
Superscoring and Score Choice: What’s the Difference?
Superscoring is something that schools themselves can do with any of the SAT scores you submit to them.
Score choice is a service that College Board offers that allows you to decide which SAT scores to submit.
So, let’s say a student takes the SAT three times. Using score choice, the student could send only the scores from her last two SAT attempts to schools. Thus, schools would never see her SAT scores from her first attempt. In fact, they would not even know that she took the SAT three times.
Of course, any superscoring that schools might then do with her SAT scores would be based on only the scores from her last two SAT attempts. After all, as far as the schools would know, those two attempts are her only attempts.
So, unless a school requires that applicants send all test scores when they submit SAT scores, you don’t have to worry if you’ve taken the SAT multiple times and have a score from a particular test date (or two) that you don’t want schools to see.
The thing to keep in mind, however, is that schools have varying application requirements. So, some schools require applicants to send all test scores, meaning that score choice isn’t an option. Furthermore, not all schools superscore the SAT. Let’s discuss.
Score choice is a service that College Board offers that allows you to decide which SAT scores to submit.
Determining Which Colleges Use Superscoring and Score Choice
Fortunately, many colleges and universities, including many top schools, allow the use of score choice and/or superscore your results. However, it’s important to determine, on a case by case basis, whether the schools you’re applying to allow for either or both of these options.
The best way to get that information is by researching application requirements on each school’s website. Generally, schools explicitly state on their websites what their policies are regarding both superscoring and score choice. Of course, if you have questions about the policies stated on their websites, you can always contact admissions offices directly by phone or email, to get clarification.
Remember also that a school may allow the use of score choice but not superscore your tests, or vice versa. In other words, don’t assume that a school that says yes to one will automatically say yes to the other.
For instance, Georgetown University does not allow the use of score choice but does superscore. So, if you’re applying to Georgetown, you’ll have to submit the scores from all of your SAT test dates. However, admissions will consider your highest section scores across all of your test dates.
Boston University, on the other hand, allows students to use score choice but “recommends” submitting all SAT scores. However, either way, admissions considers the highest section scores across all SAT scores submitted.
The point is, you’re likely to find a variety of superscoring and score choice policies out there. So, you’ll want to do your research as early in the SAT process as possible. That way, you can plan your retake strategy accordingly.
TTP PRO TIP:
To determine the superscoring and score choice policies of schools you’re interested in applying to, research application requirements on the individual website of each school.
Superscoring Is Not a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card
A final point to keep in mind when researching application requirements at colleges and universities that interest you is that the option to have your test results superscored is not a “get out of jail free” card.
In other words, it would be a mistake to view superscoring as an excuse to not give your full and best effort at every SAT test sitting. Let’s consider a couple of examples of why this point is true.
Let’s take our earlier example of Georgetown University, which does not allow score choice but does superscore. Now, some students applying to Georgetown might think it doesn’t really matter if some of their test scores are low. After all, admissions is going to use their highest section scores as their “final” score anyway.
However, you’ll still have to submit those low scores alongside the higher ones. So, even if admissions considers the highest scores most representative of your skill level, a bunch of low scores probably won’t look great, right?
Even if a school both allows score choice and uses superscores, having wildly imbalanced section scores on the test results you submit could raise red flags. For example, say a student who took the SAT three times chooses to submit the results of two of those test attempts. On one test, the student’s Math score is high, but his Reading and Writing score is very low. On the other test, the student’s Reading and Writing score is high, but his Math score is very low.
The student thinks that he’s in the clear because his tests will be superscored. But the fact is, the very low section scores will still be submitted to the school. Does he really want the school to see him not putting his best foot forward in every possible way?
Remember, even if a school allows score choice and uses SAT superscores, you can’t necessarily pick and choose which section scores to submit from different test dates. Some schools may allow you to self-report only your highest section scores from any test dates (Johns Hopkins, for example). However, other schools may superscore but still view your other scores.
The main thing to keep in mind is that, while superscoring (and score choice) may provide some benefit, it doesn’t always “wipe the slate clean” of your other test results. So, your goal on every SAT you take should be to score as high as possible in every section. That way, you’ll keep as many college options open to yourself as possible.
TTP PRO TIP:
Your goal on every SAT you take should always be to score as high as possible in every section.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about SAT superscores.
Can you superscore SAT tests automatically?
If you’re wondering how to superscore SAT scores on College Board’s website, the answer is that you cannot. So, there is no way to have College Board superscore your tests or to superscore your tests yourself in your College Board account before you send scores to schools.
Schools may choose to superscore your results from multiple SAT test sittings, but keep in mind that they will receive all of the scores associated with each test date you submit a score report from using the score choice service. So, unless a school automatically superscores the results it receives before the scores are shared with admissions, admissions will see all of the scores you send.
Does the SAT superscore for you?
Superscoring is not an automatic process. So, if you’re wondering, does your score automatically superscore when you take the SAT more than once, the answer is no.
All of your section scores for any SAT you take are included in the score report for that sitting, regardless of whether you end up taking the SAT more than once.
How do colleges superscore the SAT?
Colleges and universities that use SAT superscores take the highest Math score and the highest Reading and Writing score across all of the test sittings you send them the results of, and combine those two section scores to get your composite score.
So, if you send them score reports from multiple SAT tests, they’ll use whichever section scores are highest out of all those tests, even if the two section scores come from different tests.
The thing is, those schools may still look at all of your section scores on each submitted test, depending on their policies. So, they may still see your lower section scores.
Superscoring the SAT: Key Takeaways
- An SAT superscore is a composite score that a school may calculate based on the highest section scores a test-taker earned out of any of the score reports submitted to the school.
- Score choice is a service that College Board offers that allows you to decide which test dates you want to submit SAT scores from.
- Score choice does not allow you to pick and choose section scores from different test dates. When you elect to submit scores from a particular date using score choice, you must send all of the section scores from that test date.
- Some schools may allow you to self-report just your highest section scores from any SATs you’ve taken.
- Many colleges and universities allow the use of score choice and/or will superscore your results, including many top schools. However, not all schools that use score choice will superscore, or vice versa.
- To find out the superscoring and score choice policies of schools, research application requirements on the individual website of each school you’re interested in applying to.
- Superscoring is not a “get out of jail free” card. Your goal on every SAT you take should be to score as high as possible in every section.
- Superscoring is not automatic. You cannot get College Board to superscore your test results for you, nor can you superscore your results before sending your scores to schools.
Now that you know what SAT superscores are, you may want to check out our article on how many times you should take the SAT.
Also, check out this article about which top schools use SAT superscores.