Although many test-takers anticipate that they will need to take the SAT only once, it’s not uncommon to have to retake the test.
So, if you are currently asking, “should I retake the SAT?”, please read on. This article will address frequently asked questions related to retaking the SAT and typical justifications for doing so.
Topics We’ll Cover:
- There Are Limited Opportunities to Retake the SAT
- Reasons for Retaking the SAT
- External Issues Affected Your Performance
- You Weren’t Ready on Test Day
- Retaking the SAT: Is It Worth It?
- Is There a Risk to Retaking the SAT?
- To Retake or Not to Retake the SAT?
To start, let’s discuss what you need to know about retaking the SAT.
There Are Limited Opportunities to Retake the SAT
If you’re a high school junior, there is generally no pressure to take or retake the SAT at any particular point during your junior year. You might consider taking the SAT in the fall of your junior year, to get a baseline score. This is a good strategy, especially if you took the PSAT during your sophomore year.
But if you’re a senior, it may be critical to retake the SAT in time to qualify for early admission/early decision (EA/ED) or to meet scholarship deadlines. Thus, knowing the dates and registration deadlines of upcoming SATs is important.
The good news is that retaking the SAT is a pretty simple process, and there is no limit to how often you can retake the SAT. The bad news, however, is that the SAT is offered only on certain dates. So, you generally will have to wait at least a month if you wish to retake the exam.
For example, for the school year 2022-2023, the SAT dates and registration deadlines are as follows:
Test Date Registration Deadline
- August 27, 2022 July 29, 2022
- October 1, 2022 September 2, 2022
- November 5, 2022 October 7, 2022
- December 3, 2022 November 3, 2022
- March 11, 2023 February 10, 2023
- May 6, 2023 April 7, 2023
- June 3, 2023 May 4, 2023
You can find test dates and registration deadlines at the College Board website.
Strategically Schedule Your SAT Retake
Most early action/early decision deadlines are around November 1. If you’re a senior with EA/ED goals, then you should take or retake your SAT no later than October 1, as it generally takes 2-3 weeks for test scores to be released. If you’re considering Regular Decision, which has an application deadline of January 1 at most schools, the December testing date will be your last chance for a retake.
The College Board offers the SAT only on specific dates. Retaking the SAT to meet application deadlines requires careful planning.
Note that there is an inherent problem with the SAT test dates and SAT registration deadlines. Let’s say you take the SAT on October 1 and you receive your scores 2 weeks later. You decide that you want to retake the test as soon as possible to try for a higher score. But note that the registration deadline for the November 5 test administration has already passed! You will only be able to retake in November if you pay a late registration fee.
Now, let’s look at why retaking the SAT might be a good idea.
Reasons for Retaking the SAT
In general, students think about retaking the SAT because they didn’t score as well as they had hoped to. The reasons for not scoring well can be categorized as either content factors (the material tested) or non-content factors (factors not involving the material). In either case, the bottom line is if you want to raise your score, don’t hesitate to retake your SAT!
Let’s first discuss some of the non-content-related reasons for retaking the SAT. For most of these reasons, it will be clear that retaking the SAT is usually the best move.
If you want to raise your SAT score, then don’t hesitate to retake your SAT!
External Issues Affected Your Performance
Even if you are well-prepared, there are many circumstances that may arise on test day to hurt your performance. These issues have nothing to do with the exam’s material. Rather, they are outside factors that can creep in while taking your SAT.
Let’s explore some reasons for a poor result on test day.
You Were Anxious and Unfocused on Exam Day
It’s possible that being well-prepared for the SAT won’t always be enough to calm your anxiety on test day. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that test anxiety is quite typical among SAT test-takers.
So, if you can identify anxiety as the reason for your SAT downfall, retake the SAT as soon as possible. However, you must practice certain methods for reducing anxiety and regaining focus before your retake.
You can employ many straightforward but extremely effective techniques, such as careful and methodical breathing or visualizing success, which will help calm your nerves during your exam. In fact, try working on these techniques during the days before your exam.
TTP PRO TIP:
If you suffer from test anxiety, practice techniques to reduce stress in the days leading up to your SAT.
It Was Just Not Your Day
Even the most well-prepared SAT test-taker occasionally has a terrible day. Maybe you weren’t feeling well the morning of your exam or had a restless night’s sleep the night before. It’s possible that you had car trouble on test day. Maybe your trip to your testing site took longer than expected, and you felt rushed when you got there. You simply felt “off” for some reason, which hurt your performance.
Remember that even professional athletes, who are among the greatest at what they do, occasionally have bad days. In other words, you are not alone! So, rather than wallowing in self-pity after a bad day, pick yourself up and prepare for a retake. If you were well-prepared, there is no reason to believe lightning will strike twice!
TTP PRO TIP:
Bad days can happen. So, if you have one, leave it behind and prepare for your next SAT.
You Couldn’t Get in the Timing Groove
Unexplainable Timing Factors
On the SAT, poor time management can happen for various reasons. These include racing through questions out of nervousness or obsessing over previous or future questions rather than paying attention to the question in front of you. These issues could lead to an SAT score that does not represent your skills and knowledge.
If you suffered from any of these “freak” timing issues, I suggest scheduling your SAT for the next testing date. If you can fix these timing issues, there is no reason why you cannot improve your SAT score on your next attempt.
Macro timing issues are another issue altogether. For example, if you regularly run out of time in a particular section or cannot answer particular questions, you may need months rather than days to fix your issues. Pacing problems on the SAT signify issues with a test-taker’s knowledge or abilities. Thus, you will need to study more to increase your knowledge base.
So, at the end of the day, my advice is, to be honest with yourself. If you look at your issues during the SAT and clearly point to weak knowledge as a problem, then do the right thing, give yourself a few more months to get on the right track, and then retake your exam.
TTP PRO TIP:
If you scored low on your SAT because of timing issues, determine the exact cause of those issues. Then make the fixes you need so you do not repeat them on your next SAT.
Your Surroundings Affected Your Performance
When taking practice SATs, you should always attempt to replicate test-day conditions. However, I realize that there is only so much you can do to replicate those conditions. For example, if you take your SAT in the school gym or a classroom, you can’t recreate that environment at home. However, maybe you can ask a teacher to let you stay later at school and take a practice SAT after hours. If not, try taking it at the library.
Even doing those things cannot make you 100 percent prepared for your testing environment. For example, maybe during your SAT, the exam room’s temperature was either too high or too low, or the student seated next to you kept clearing his throat or tapping his fingers on the desk. If you are caught in these situations, you can rest assured that they are unlikely to recur in a retake. Even so, consider wearing layers of clothing to adjust to the temperature or having noise-canceling headphones handy to minimize distractions.
I recommend retaking your SAT as soon as possible if the test environment negatively affected you.
TTP PRO TIP:
Distractions caused by the test environment are unlikely to recur.
Now that we’ve discussed some non-content-related factors that might have affected your score, let’s examine some content-related concerns.
You Weren’t Ready on Test Day
It happens on every SAT. Students take the SAT despite being ill-prepared, hoping to achieve their target scores. There are several circumstances in which students take the SAT before they are truly ready. Let’s discuss those now.
You Had Unrealistic Hopes of Doing Well
We all tend to wish and hope for the best, but as the saying goes, “Wishing won’t make it so.” The reality is that if we do not study well for the SAT, we likely won’t perform well.
If you scored low on your SAT due to a lack of preparation, perhaps you did so because you were unaware of how difficult the SAT truly is. So, if you suffered a low SAT score because you were ill-prepared, give yourself plenty of time before your retake. Get on a consistent and effective study path, and then give the exam another shot.
Another reason you may have been unprepared on test day is that you did not use proper study materials. Let’s discuss that next.
You May Have Not Used the Best SAT Preparation Materials
Using thorough SAT prep materials is a must for your SAT preparation. If you do not, you may fail to learn SAT math and verbal adequately.
To do well on the SAT, the simple truth is that you must master a huge number of math and verbal concepts. Thus, you need prep materials that have wide coverage of these concepts.
If you fell flat on your SAT, it’s likely that the study tools you employed weren’t adequate for your needs. You should thus consider switching to more effective test prep materials.
TTP PRO TIP:
If your SAT score was lower than what you hoped for, consider studying with more comprehensive prep materials before retaking the test.
Retaking the SAT: Is It Worth It?
Students may find themselves in a “gray area” when determining whether to retake the SAT and how long to wait before doing so. In other words, they may be confused about whether retaking the SAT is the best course of action.
All SAT test-takers have unique situations, so you’ll need to decide whether a retake is right for you. So, let’s look at some hypothetical scenarios you may find yourself in when considering retaking the SAT.
Scenario 1: You have an acceptable score, and your deadline is close.
Let’s say you have just a few weeks before your application deadline, but there is one more SAT test date when you could give the SAT one more shot. You just got your SAT score of 1350, a great score, but it’s at the lower range of scores at your dream school.
In this case, it’s worth it to retake the SAT. Even with a late registration fee, the cost is minimal, and it’s quite possible, even with just a few weeks to study, that you can up your score to an even more competitive one.
You never want a school to reject you because of your SAT score. Therefore, the best course of action may be to err on the side of caution and try for a score increase if your score looks average.
This kind of situation is an excellent reminder to not wait until the last minute to take your SAT. You can avoid being pressed for time but not quite where you want to be if you give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to study for and take the SAT.
TTP PRO TIP:
Giving yourself more time than you think you’ll need to prepare for and take the SAT is a good idea.
Scenario 2: Your score is competitive but you can improve it.
People frequently think that taking the SAT again to improve their scores is pointless if they already have a high SAT score. However, why not try again if you believe that you have a strong possibility to improve your score and you have the time? A higher score could make you more competitive for scholarships or for admission to an Honors program, making your college experience even more rewarding.
TTP PRO TIP:
If you’re confident that you can improve an already excellent score to an even better one, go for it.
Next, let’s discuss a scenario in which it makes sense actually to stick with your current SAT score.
Scenario 3: Your score is solid, and you have other demands on your time.
Even though there are many situations where it makes sense to retake your SAT, you don’t necessarily need to do so just because your score wasn’t as good as it could have been.
For example, let’s say your score is in the middle of the SAT score range at your target college. Additionally, you performed better on the real SAT than on your SAT practice tests. Also, you have many responsibilities — school, family, and a job — that would be affected by the additional time you might need to study.
With your present score, your college admission is highly likely. Unlike the previous scenario, where you could study for a few weeks and raise your SAT score, in this case, you would probably need to study for a few months to raise your score.
Keep in mind that applicants don’t always need to have SAT scores at the very top of a school’s range to be competitive. And even though your SAT score is important, it is only one element of your whole application package.
Don’t take the SAT again if you have a good score for the colleges you want to go to and would need a lot of time to raise your score.
TTP PRO TIP:
If you have a competitive SAT score for the colleges you want to attend, a retake might not be warranted.
Is There a Risk to Retaking the SAT?
If you’re wondering whether taking the SAT again “looks bad” to colleges, the quick answer is no. Quite a few students retake the test, and there is no stigma associated with taking it multiple times.
SAT retakes are a common occurrence among college applicants.
Having said that, you should ensure that if you’re taking the SAT more than once, you’re getting better each time. Additionally, be strategic about which scores you send to colleges. It’s not necessary to send all your scores, so you might want to choose to send scores that show successive improvement. Also, if your chosen school uses super scoring, send the appropriate scores to allow the admissions committees to calculate your super score accurately.
Remember, weighing your chances of improving your SAT score with the time you have to do so will help you decide whether to retake the SAT. Therefore, the more time you give yourself before your application deadlines, the more freedom you’ll have to plan your SAT retake.
To Retake or Not to Retake the SAT?
I am aware that this post has covered a lot of ground. The bottom line is that there is a very good probability you should take the SAT again if you are even thinking about doing so. However, you must first carefully assess your current circumstance to ascertain whether that retake will occur after weeks or months. Then, using the instructions provided here, you ought to be able to identify the best plan for your unique situation.
If you decide to retake the SAT, you might find the hints in this article about improving your SAT math score to be useful.