Should I Retake the SAT Standardized Test

Ana-Marcela Lopez

If you’ve taken the SAT and aren’t happy with your scores, you might be wondering whether to retake it. The answer depends on you! In theory, you could take the SAT as many times as you want, but that might not be right for you. While they aren’t everything, test scores are a significant component of your undergraduate application. Before you decide to retake, ask yourself the following questions: 

How much time do you have? 

This is the first and most important question you need to ask yourself. Time is of the essence when it comes to improving your SAT scores. There are more steps than you might realize when it comes to taking and retaking the SAT; it takes time to receive your scores, understand your points of weakness, make a plan to address them, study for the next exam, register for the exam, actually take the exam, receive the scores, and submit them to your school. And you have to do all of this before its time to submit your applications! 

Tests are administered annually in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December, so you’ll need to be mindful of when your college applications are due. If you have the time, then great! If you don’t, it’s okay. There are other ways to make your application stand out. 

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Do you have the plan or the resources to do better? 

Once you determine that you have the time to retake the test, you need to make a plan to assess and address what went wrong the first time. Not everyone can afford luxury test prep, and that’s okay. There are plenty of affordable and accessible test prep resources. Retaking the test without doing anything to address the obstacles you faced the first time could end up wasting your time and money. 

Magoosh Online Test Prep is an excellent, low-cost resource that helps you map out a plan and study efficiently. We have also written about some of our favorite free resources, which you can see here!

What is your target? 

Dream big, but be realistic. Not every student is a great test taker, and both the SAT and ACT are challenging. Your scores only represent one aspect of you, so know that the rest of your application can help make up for how you may have performed in the high-stress environment of a testing room. Don’t set your sights on acing the test if you find that studying and practice exams aren’t going well; you’ll disappoint yourself and spend unnecessary money. And chances are, you don’t need a perfect score to get into the school that’s perfect for you. In fact, some schools might not even require that you submit your scores! Do some research to find out what the average score is at your desired institution. Aiming for that ballpark makes much more sense than trying to ace the test.

What to do if your retakes don’t help you improve.

Don’t panic. Remember, you are more than your test scores, and colleges know that! There are plenty of bright, talented students who achieved their collegiate dreams without perfect scores. There are also students who had near-perfect SAT scores who didn’t get into their dream school. College admissions isn’t an exact science, and every student is different. 

Again, test scores are just one part of your application. Think of your scores as just one piece of the puzzle. The other parts, such as your essays, letters of recommendation, résumé, and extracurricular activities tell the rest of your story. Focus just as much energy into developing your passions and serving your community as you would to preparing for the SAT. The following parts of your application are just as important as your test scores: 

Write a killer essay: 

There is so much more to college than just taking tests, so admissions committees want to know about who you are as an individual, not just your test scores. This is why your essays are so important. They serve as an opportunity to showcase your personality, and a stellar essay can compensate for less-than-perfect SAT scores. As you prepare for applications, make sure you carve out enough time to plan, draft, and revise a winning essay. Look at our pro tips and tricks to help you execute that perfect college application essay.

Get great letters of recommendation:

Like your essay, letters of recommendation tell a different side of your story. You will likely ask a teacher or, in some cases, an employer to write you a letter. Some schools have specific requirements, so make sure to follow those. Regardless, ask someone you trust. A glowing letter of recommendation will demonstrate to colleges that, despite low scores, you are a determined student with potential. Want to know more about this part of your application? Check out our guide on letters of recommendation.

Create an excellent activities résumé: 

An often overlooked yet important portion of your undergraduate application is an activities résumé. An activities résumé is a brief summary of your accomplishments, passions, and leadership experience. As important as your résumé is, don’t succumb to the “varsity blues.” Be honest and open about how you spend your time outside of the classroom. Let us help you write an activities résumé for your college applications.

Test scores are important, but more and more schools are increasing their efforts to look at students more holistically. If you have the time and resources to retake the SAT, then go ahead! But don’t break the bank or your spirit trying to get a perfect score. Instead, focus your energy on supplementing your application with your essays, letters of recommendation, and an activities résumé. And above all, remember that you are more than your test scores! 


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