Should You Retake the SAT’s to Improve Your Score?

Your target university’s or colleges admissions and aid policies may make it worthwhile to aim for higher scores.

This month, the University Board debuted its much-discussed redesigned SAT test. As you update your test-taking strategies, also consider the situation in which you would retake the SAT exam. Though retaking the exam involves a second infusion of money and time, it is worth it in these three instances.

Woman In Assessment Center


Your score falls below the average mark for your prospective colleges-

Your SAT exam scores should not define your university choices, but they should inform them. If you took the SAT test early in your junior year, you might not have had a list of target colleges in mind yet. Or you might have realized that your SAT score put your first-choice college into the “reach” category if you were 50-100 points below the admissions average.

Having a actual score in mind can be a powerful motivator. It is always more hard to work with a poorly or vague defined goal, and if you set out to just “get better” it can be hard to gauge whether you are making important progress. Recognizing that you must add 200 points to your score provides you with a measurable target, and it can turn that coveted reach college into reality.

On the redesigned SAT test, the essay part is optional. If you skipped the essay the first time you took the exam, you may need to retake the whole examination if you later realize that your prospective university requires it.

A higher SAT score will qualify you for additional financial aid

Perhaps your initial scores on the redesigned SAT exam are enough for admissions purposes, but they fall just short of merit-based scholarships. The University of Arkansas, for instance, uses a sliding tuition scale for students who aren’t state residents. As few as 70 additional points on the SAT can mean an important tuition reduction.

Of course, scholarship plans differ across colleges, and your target score may change accordingly. Thus how do you decide when to retake the SAT test? If you are within 100 points of a definitive target scores, as in the University of Arkansas example, it is good working toward that goal.

For more nebulous situations, where the criteria shifts with each incoming semester, pay attention to trends and aim to score in the top 10 percent of test-takers nationwide. According to the University Board’s data for the previous version of the SAT exam, this represents a score of 660 in critical reading, 650 in writing and 680 in math.

It can be very difficult to earn additional points if you are already got good score, but if you were to gain 110 cumulative points, you would move from the 90th percentile to the 95th percentile. The payoff, in turn, could be astonishing: up to four years of considerably discounted tuition.

New coursework will enhance your ability to earn a competitive score-

The redesigned SAT exam, when compared with its predecessor, is oriented toward knowledge and analysis assessment rather than memorization. While there is still value in strategy, the gaining of new knowledge and skills is more significant.

If you did poorly on the math part of the SAT exam, for example, it may be wise to retake the exam after you complete a class of trigonometry and data analysis. A rigorous International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement course in history or English could also increase your score, as the skills and content in these subjects directly apply to the evidence-based writing and reading portion.

By sitting for the examination early, you will be able to know skills useful to the SAT exam in your later classes. For example, as you analyze texts in your English course, you will be reminded of questions or problems you encountered on the SAT test. When you eventually retake the SAT test, you will have had a class or semester and more of practice with evidence-based textual analysis.


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