The Pros and Cons of Retaking SAT®

Student retaking the SAT test
Does retaking the SAT® look bad? Know the benefits of retaking SAT, how it will affect your college admissions, and when you should start preparing to retake.
Student retaking the SAT test
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Important SAT Update: Transition to Digital SAT
Effective December 3, 2023, the traditional paper-and-pencil format of the SAT has been discontinued. Starting in 2024, all students are required to take the Digital SAT, ushering in substantial changes in duration, format, material coverage, and question types. This shift to the Digital SAT represents a departure from traditional testing methods. It is crucial for students, educators, and test-takers to acquaint themselves with the new examination structure. Read more about the Digital SAT here.

Did you know? You can retake the SAT® as many times as you want. This option helps most students improve their cumulative scores or scores within specific sections. If you want to retake the SAT and make the most of it, here are a few things you must know.

Why Should You Retake the SAT?

To help answer this question, we outlined a few of the top reasons you might want to retake the SAT.

  • To get close 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 to warrant retaking the test. Even if you are sure that your scores are good enough to get admission into college, think about whether a higher SAT score could help pay for your education.
  • To reach the scores set by your desired schools

    Always consider the impact of a higher score. After you get the results of your first SAT test, you should first consider the correlation between SAT scores and acceptance at the colleges you are applying to. Still, a better score can always improve your chances of acceptance, and statistically, you are likely to improve your scores by retaking the test.
  • To increase chances of getting scholarships

    Retaking the SAT increases your chances of getting a higher score, which increases your chances of getting scholarships and securing college funding. In addition to college scholarships, there are a number of programs run by the College Board that can help you get funding for college tuition.
Research shows that a total of 63% of students from the class of 2018 increased their SAT score by retaking the SAT.

Does retaking the SAT look bad?

No, it does not! Retaking the SAT is a common practice among students who use it to reach their target scores since there are no limits to the number of times you can take 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.

Now that many schools participate in the Score Choice® program, only the highest score is reported to the school. With Score Choice, students who want to use superscoring can request that their best score be used. This means there is minimal risk in retaking the SAT.

However, some schools will require that you send all of your scores from each attempt. In this case, taking the test too many times can affect the impression you make on admissions. You should consider that taking the test too many times might look like you are not thoroughly preparing yourself for each attempt. This is especially so if your scores are not improving with each try.

Instead of taking the test repeatedly and hoping to improve by chance, study hard using data from your scoring reports (from the College Board or practice tests) and gain confidence through lots of practice.

When Can You Retake the SAT?

The College Board® advises students to take it for the first time during the spring of their junior year and retake it again in the fall to improve their SAT test scores. However, each student is different, and you can choose to retake the SAT until you are satisfied with your test scores. Remember that it costs $60 to retake the SAT, and you can retake the SAT at a regular test center authorized by the College Board.

Additionally, there are a couple of things you need to consider when retaking the SAT.

  1. Reflect on your last SAT performance.
  2. Try to keep a considerable gap between your test dates. This gap should give you ample time to practice so that you can reach your target SAT test score. If you are in your senior year, you should also consider the timeline of your college applications and scholarships while planning for your SAT retake date.
  3. Can you be sure that retaking the SAT will be worth your time? Timing is important. Since the SAT is offered seven times a year, you should schedule your SAT tests with enough time to study and include your SAT scores in your college applications.

Are You Preparing to Retake the SAT? Here’s What to Consider!

If you are thinking of retaking the SAT, here are some pointers to help you out:

  1. Finalize your next testing date

    You need to find out and finalize your next testing date. This will keep you on a schedule and keep you from procrastinating. For the SAT test, you need to study rigorously for a month, or you can study at your pace for 2–3 months. We recommend spending 90 days preparing and studying for the exam. As soon as the exam is over, you should start getting ready for the next one. You will identify your weaker sections and questions while taking the exam. Focus on improving those areas.
  2. Evaluate your score report

    Once you have a date on the calendar, a great way to start preparing is to evaluate your score report. The details found in the results from your first attempt at the SAT can help create a study plan by effectively pinpointing the areas where you can improve your score the most.
  3. Focus on sections and subscores

    While it is important to study for each section of the exam, you will find that you can make better use of your time by focusing on gaining points in your weaker areas. Focus on your subscores and weaker sections separately.
  4. Practice before retaking the SAT

    You will want to give yourself enough time to prepare for your next attempt. Do not rush to retake the test. Be sure of yourself, and do practice tests to see how much you’ve learned in each section and subsection. You can create study plans around the areas you feel you can improve the most, and take the test again when you are satisfied with your performance on the practice tests.

If you decide that retaking the SAT is the best decision for you, you will need to determine what kind of prep you can complete, making the second attempt worth your time. There is a wide range of study materials to prepare you to retake the test. Check out UWorld’s SAT Prep courses to gain experience and improve your scores through practice questions and guided explanations.

No, you cannot retake only one section of the SAT.
No, unless you choose to send all of your SAT test scores to colleges, they will not know how frequently you took the SAT. You can always send them your preferred SAT test results. Some colleges, however, require applicants to send all of their test scores.
Yes, you can retake the SAT after graduating high school.
Yes, you absolutely can!
You can study at your own pace and on your schedule
Illustration of student studying alone for the SAT and struggling with questions
Is it difficult finding the time to study?
You can study at your own pace and on your schedule
Illustration of student studying alone for the SAT and struggling with questions
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