Both the SAT and the ACT are major examinations, and many students find that they do not perform as well as they would like the first time they take these tests. As a result, many opt to retake them, especially if they took the test for the first time during their junior year of high school. For the majority of students who retake, the new test scores are higher because test takers are able to focus on solid test preparation and get past their nerves on test day. If you want to retake the SAT or ACT, here are some issues to think about first.
Considerations Before Retaking
1. Can I Really Do Better?
If you are disappointed in your score but feel that it accurately represents your abilities, then it may not be worthwhile to retake the test. You will be spending time and money on the retaken test, so you need to have a good idea that you could improve your score. Some factors that may indicate your score could improve include:
- You did poorly because of nerves
- You did poorly because you didn’t prepare
- You did poorly because you made a mistake
- You did poorly because you took too long on some questions and left others blank
If you think you can fix these areas, consider retaking the test to boost your score. Many students find that retaking the test improves their scores because they have a better idea of how to prepare and what to expect.
2. Can I Afford It?
You will have to pay the testing fee if you retake the test. Before you decide to try again, make sure that you have the money to do so.
3. How Close Are You to Your Target Score?
Did you have a target score in mind that you failed to meet? How close were you? If you are only a few points away, you may not be far enough away to warrant retaking the test just to make a small improvement. Your current score may be sufficient to get you into the college of your choice. If you were several hundred points away from your target on the SAT or 10 or more points away on the ACT, then you have a stronger case for retaking the test.
4. Would Superscoring Help You?
Several colleges use a process to calculate total test scores. This process takes the highest score from multiple testing dates for each section of the test. In this case, focusing on one section at a time, then retaking the test to focus on the next, could help you have a higher superscore.
If you answer these questions honestly and still feel that retaking is right for you, you need to consider several things.
Retaking the ACT
There is no risk in retaking the ACT if you want to improve your score. If you do worse, you can simply submit the higher score from a previous test.
You can retake the ACT up to 12 times. If you are considering doing this, you should know that almost everyone scores higher when retaking the ACT. The real-life testing experience is invaluable in preparing for this test.
Retaking the SAT
Prior to 2009, retaking the SAT meant that colleges saw all of the attempts at the test, because the College Board would send all of your scores to every college. That has changed; now many schools participate in the Score Choice program, which means that only the highest score is reported to the school. With Score Choice, students who want to use superscoring can request that their highest section score be used. This means there is minimal risk for retaking the SAT.
The College Board does not limit the number of times a person can take the SAT. However, they host only seven test dates each year. Time can be the biggest hindrance in the way of those looking to improve their scores. All students should balance the need for high SAT scores with the need to do well in other areas of life as they prepare for college. Also, if a student with dozens of SAT scores applies to a school that does not allow Score Choice, the school may wonder if the applicant is doing due diligence to properly prepare.
The bottom line about retaking the SAT or the ACT is this: If you were unhappy with your score and have time to prepare a bit more, retaking the test has a good chance of improving your score. Find a testing date that works for you, then dig in to the test-preparation process to see your score go up.