Expert Guide: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT? (2023)

Expert Guide: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT? (1)

How many times can you take the SAT? Is there a limit if you're retaking it to achieveyour ideal score? Why would you want to keep sitting through this high stakestest, anyway?

There are several compelling reasons to take the SAT more than once, but you also shouldn't go totally overboard. Let's go overwhen you should retake the SAT, and when it might be time to move on.

Reasons to Take the SAT More Than Once

Students almost always improve when they retake the SAT.When you take the SAT,you gain valuablereal test experience that helps youfigure out how to manage your time and deal with pressure. Youmight encounter certain problems that stump youand learn the concepts youmissed out on for next time. Because theycan take time to study and improve, lots of students choose to take the SAT more than once to improve the scores they'll ultimately add to their college applications.

Some students strategically build up their SAT score section by section. If your college superscores your test resultsor takes the highest scores by section across all the timeyou sat for the test, then you could theoretically focus on Math for one test date, Reading for another date, and Writing and Language for the third. While you shouldn't treat any section as a throwaway section, since a major discrepancy in scores could raise red flags both to your colleges and the College Board, this approach is one way to really hone your knowledge in one area and potentially achieve near-perfect section scores one test date at a time.

If you scoreworse than you expected to on the SAT, you might have had a fluke test. There could have been a major passage that just didn't make sense to you, or maybe you were tired, sick, or distracted that day. If this is the case, you should schedule for the next test as soon as possible.

So if you're likely to improve your SAT scores every time you take the test, should you just keep taking it over and over again until you hit perfection?

Can You Take the SAT an Unlimited Number of Times?

How many times can you take the SAT? Technically, you can take the SAT as many times as you want! There are no restrictions for registering for and taking the test. There are 7 test dates throughout the year, so the only limit that stands in your wayis time.

Many schools allow you to use Score Choice, or to pick and choose which scores from which test dates you want to send as part of your college application.

(Video) How Many Times Should You Take the SAT or ACT?

Not all schools support the use of Score Choice, however, and they take it on good faith that you'll send all your scores. Some notable schools with a "send all scores" policy include Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of California.

So if you can use Score Choice to send only some scores and keep the rest private, and you have the time and money to keep retesting, then technically you could take the SAT as many times as you want. But if your schools don't use Score Choice and you are expected to send all your test scores along with your application, how many times retaking the SAT is too many?

How Many SAT Tests Is Too Many?

If you're applying to schools that require all scores, like the ones mentioned above, I would recommend not taking the SAT more than six times. If you take the SAT this many or more times, you might be sending the signal that you're not taking the test seriously enough to prep each time or that you have a lot of trouble improving your scores. The SAT is meant to test all students on a level playing field and determine their readiness for college, so it wouldn't look all thatstrong to have to take the testmore than six times to perform well.

While real test experience is valuable, you also will gaina lot from focused and purposeful test prep. Perhapsyou keep retaking the SAT and your scores are not improving as much as you'd like. Rather than asking, "How many times can I take the SAT?" you should reconsideryour test prep approach. Are you really uncovering and targeting your weak spots and filling in your knowledge gaps? Are you timing yourself when you take practice tests to practice your pacing? Are you familiar with the best strategies for analyzing the Reading passages or writing the essay?

By honing your approach to test prep and really putting in the time and effort to study, you should be able to achieve your target scores within a few administrations of the SAT. Besides what excessive retesting indicates about how you're prepping for the SAT, it also might not be the best idea for a few other reasons.

Expert Guide: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT? (2)

Planning your SAT testing schedule is all about balance.

Reasons Not to Overtake the SAT

First, it's important to take control of your test prep, diagnose your strengths and weaknesses, and figure out what you need to do to improve your scores. Apart from this, you're probably also taking other tests, like finals or the SAT Subject Tests, along with all your schoolwork, community service, and clubs or sports that require your attention. You wouldn't want to drop the ball at this point in your high school career by diverting attention away from these other pursuits, as these are also all key parts of your college application.

Plus, unless you're superhuman or highly skilled at meditating, sitting for the SATtends to involve stress and anxiety.Getting real test experience is helpful in teaching you to regulate your nerves, calm yourself down, and focus, but you also don't need to put yourself through this too many times. Taking the SAT more than six times could potentially become a waste of time, money, and energy.

Again, while you can definitely have a fluke testing experience and score much lower than you should, you also don't want to treat any tests as throwaway tests. It's important to take every test seriously so you can get a real sense of your skills and scoring capacity. You can use this same mindsetwith practice tests - by simulating testing conditions and timing yourself, you can build on your testing experience and figure out what you need to learn and practice to boost your scores.

(Video) How Many Times Should You Take the SAT?

Like with everything else you're involved in through school and outside of school, taking the SAT is all about balance. If you set and stick to a study plan and testing schedule, then you'll be able to find the happy medium between testing too often andtesting too little. Belowis one common guide that works for a lot of high school students.

SAT Study Plan and Testing Schedule Guide

This timeline is effective for a lot of students and gives you time to prep and retake the SAT a few times to hit your target scores. Rather than scouring for test dates to figure out how many times can you take the SAT, you can have everything planned out in advance.

1.Study for the SAT the summer before junior year. You can use online prep, answer SAT Questions of the Day, print official practice tests, try sample questions, and study from books.

2. Register for and take your first real SAT test in the fall of junior year. Depending on how you do, you can later register for the test again.

3. If you're retaking the SAT, you can prep during the winter of junior year and take the SAT again in the spring. You might also be taking SAT Subject Tests at the end of the school year. If you still aren't scoring where you want to score, then you can sign up to take the SAT in the fall of your senior year.

4. Put a lot of effort into test prep the summer between junior and senior year. Figure out what you were missing on the first two administrations of the test, learn the concepts, and apply them through practice problems. You want to do everything you can to prepare, as this test in the fall will likely be your last chance.

5. Take the first available test senior year, before you get too busy with schoolwork and your summer studying is fresh in your mind. This would be in October for the SAT. If you feel this test did not go well, you might be able to retake it one more time, depending on your college deadlines. This is also not an ideal time to take the SAT, as you'll be busy finishing up and sending off the rest of your application. If you're not sure if your scores will be sent to your colleges in time, definitely call or email the admissions office and ask if they'll accept these scores.They might wait for your scoreseven if they arrive after the stated deadline, but you can't bank on this unless they've told you this explicitly.

Expert Guide: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT? (3)

Ambitious students who feel they can achieve a high score even earlier in their high school career might choose to push this schedule forward a year.You could start prepping as a 9th or 10th grader, take the SAT throughout sophomore year, and be all set with yourscores before youeven start the rest of the application process. If you're a strong, academically achieving student, you might already have the math, reading, and writing skills you need to score highly on the SAT before you even reach junior year.

Just like with your test prep, it's important to reflect on what works best for you. As everyone has different preferences, strengths, and weaknesses, there's no one size fits all approach to studying for and taking the SAT. This testing schedule works for a lot of students, but ultimately it's up to you to decide on and stick to the schedule that will allow you to perform your best.

(Video) How To Cram For The SAT | Expert Tips From A Perfect Scorer!

To Sum Up: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT?

Around four times of sitting for the SAT (sometimes more, sometimes less) should likely be enough for you to reach your target scores, along with many more practice tests and effective test prep on your own. Don't underestimate the power of prep in helping you master the SAT.

In the end though, you shouldn't be afraid to take real tests, as they are valuable training experiences and you can almost always improve your scores or make up for an off day. Give yourself enough test dates so you don't run out of opportunities to take the test, and find the balance between retesting, studying, and accomplishing your goals in time for your college deadlines.

What's Next?

What's a good SAT score for 10th grade? 9th grade? What about overall for your college applications? These articles explore this topic of when to take the SAT even further, revealing what your early test scores indicate about your future performance.

Are you aiming for a perfect 1600? This full scorer shares his strategies for scoring an 800on both Math and Reading and Writing.

While most schools place a great deal of importance on the SAT or ACT, there are actually some schools now that have test optional or test flexible policies. Before you design your plan, make sure you understand the requirements of your colleges.

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(Video) 10 Last Minute Tips for the March SAT!

Expert Guide: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT? (4)

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Expert Guide: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT? (5)

Rebecca Safier

About the Author

Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.

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(Video) SAT Exam: How many times should you take SAT?


Is taking the SAT 5 times too much? ›

Luckily, you can take the SAT as many times as you want. Many students take the SAT more than once; most even plan to write it at least twice before their first attempt. Typically, students choose to take the test in the spring of their junior year and again in the fall of senior year.

How many times should you take the SATs? ›

Generally, we recommend students take the SAT two or three times before submitting college applications. For most students, this means taking the SAT for the first time in the fall or early spring of their junior year and planning to retest in the spring or early summer of their junior year.

Is it okay to take the SAT more than 3 times? ›

1 answer. Taking the SAT 3 or more times is acceptable if the admissions offices see some noticeable improvement or progression, so if you scored 1350, 1450, and 1520 with 3 SATs then undoubtedly, your upward score reflects your tenacity and hard work.

Is 4 times too many for the SAT? ›

Only the most recent 6 scores will stay on file at a time, but if you want to take it 38 times, College Board is happy to let you do so. However, while you can test as much as often as you want, I don't recommend taking the SAT more than 4 times total. Here's why…

Do colleges care how many times you took the SAT? ›

The short answer is no—nothing automatically shows colleges how often a student took the SAT. Most colleges let students who take the SAT multiple times select which of their test scores, by date, they send to colleges. However, some colleges do require applicants to send all their test scores.

Do colleges care how many times you take the ACT? ›

While taking the ACT multiple times can improve your score, attempting it more than 2-3 times probably won't raise it significantly. In fact, college admissions officers might even look unfavorably upon students with many test attempts.

Is taking the SAT twice enough? ›

Because of superscoring, it's a good idea to take the SAT at least twice if you can. Doing this allows you to raise your overall SAT score. Note that not all colleges superscore the SAT. As such, be sure to confirm each school's testing policy on its admissions website.

Does taking the SAT multiple times improve your score? ›

Research shows that students generally see modest score increases on the SAT upon taking the test a second time, says the College Board. A second chance is certainly good news for students who aren't satisfied with their first scores, but it can benefit high-achieving test-takers as well.

Should you take the SAT more than 2 times? ›

The short answer is no—most, if not all, schools will have no problem seeing that you have taken the SAT more than twice. But as with all issues concerning college applications and admissions, there are a number of complex factors to consider here.

Do they average SAT scores after 3 times? ›

Will colleges average your SAT scores if you take the test multiple times? In short, no. Colleges don't take the average of your scores. Instead, they will look at your “best” score, however; there are multiple ways a school can calculate that.

Does number of SAT attempts matter? ›

There is no limit on the number of times a student can take the SAT or ACT. I like to use common sense as a guide—more than three attempts is unlikely to result in better scores unless a student has devoted considerable time and effort to improvement. Colleges do not penalize students for multiple attempts.

What happens if I retake the SAT and get a lower score? ›

Additionally, if you retake the tests, you can choose which scores you send. And even if you sent all of your scores, many colleges will only consider your highest. So even if you were to get a lower score the second time, it would not matter.

How many times does the average student take the SAT? ›

Most people end up taking the SAT two or three times. Some people take it a fourth time, but generally, twice or three times works.

How many times should I take the SAT for Ivy League? ›

At IvyWise, we advise students to take the SAT or ACT no more than twice, as scores tend to plateau after the second or third sitting. There are also factors to consider before taking college entrance exams multiple times. Dr. Kat Q&A: "How many times should students take the SAT/ACT?"

Do colleges like to see improvement in SAT scores? ›

The short answer is no.

Retaking the SAT or ACT does not look bad to colleges; it may actually demonstrate your perseverance and improve your score.

Do colleges look at SAT or ACT more? ›

Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not prefer one test over the other.

What month is the hardest ACT? ›

March is the worst! Avoid it like the plague! Don't you dare take October; that's when the smart seniors are sitting. All the jocks take December, that's the surest bet for a high score!

At what point should I not retake the SAT? ›

Don't Retake the SAT More Than 3 Times

Take the test more than 3 times and admissions officers will start to think twice about your abilities. Even if you do well, some will view you as a score-obsessed student with nothing better to do.

Does it hurt to retake SAT? ›

Unless you are interested in one of a select group of colleges, the majority of colleges evaluate your highest SAT/ACT score for admissions purposes, meaning retaking the test once or twice can generally only help, not hurt, you.

Should you only take the SAT once? ›

Taking the SAT Twice Is Recommended

Most students who retake the SAT improve their score. If you're not satisfied with your score after taking the test twice, you might choose to take it a third time in the fall of senior year. That said, only you can decide whether retaking the test makes sense for you.

What percentage of students retake the SAT? ›

Fifty-four percent of students retake the SAT at least once, and some more than once, so that the mean number of takes is over 1.7. On average, students first take the SAT about 12 months before high school graduation, in May or June of junior year.

What month is the best to take the SAT? ›

It's generally best to take the SAT in the fall or spring of your junior year and then again in the fall of your senior year. The specific month you choose depends on your outside commitments and how much time you want to prepare for the exam.

Can I take SAT 1 and SAT 2 on the same day? ›

Students can take up to three Subject Tests on one testing date. However, students cannot take the SAT and the SAT Subject Test on the same day.

Can you take the SAT 10 times? ›

Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. We recommend that they take it at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year. Most students get a higher score the second time, and most colleges consider a student's highest SAT score when making admission decisions.

What is the disadvantage of taking the SAT multiple times? ›

In general, we recommend not taking the SAT more than 5 or 6 times. Taking the SAT more than 6 times may cause schools to think you don't take the test seriously or can't figure out how to improve your score.

How common is a 1600 SAT? ›

The College Board doesn't report the exact number of students who receive a perfect score, but we do have some understanding of its rarity. Based on tests taken between 2020 and 2021, the 99th+ percentile score range was 1560-1600. This means that less than 1% of test-takers scored in that range.

Is the SAT getting harder each year? ›

A: Yes, the SAT is getting harder.

As the years have passed, students worldwide have improved on the SAT, as the number of real practice tests has grown, and knowledge about the exam has spread.

Does SAT get easier over time? ›

In many ways, the new SAT is much easier than the older version. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't study and be prepared! While the format may be better for some students, the questions are still designed to test your ability and skills in each particular subject.


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