High School FAQ: Should I take the ACT / SAT One More Time?

Student taking GMAT

For many prospective college students, November is crunch time.

With college application deadlines rapidly approaching in January, now is the time to put the finishing touches on your applications. But what if you’re not happy with your standardized test scores?  With the last SAT exam of 2016 taking place on December 3rd, and the last ACT exam occurring on the 10th, time is running out if you’re still feeling a bit unsure about your scores.

How do you know if you should aim for a higher score by retaking one, or both, tests? It’s an important decision to make, and one that often does not have a clear answer. However, there are a couple of important elements to keep in mind as the registration deadlines approach.

Before making a decision, you need to research the schools you want to submit applications for, find out their average standardized score ranges, and then assess the likelihood that sitting for an additional exam would improve your score. Obviously, if you’re within the average range or below, you should strongly consider retaking the necessary tests.

The SAT and ACT are often used as foundational benchmarks for application strength, and some schools will not even look at your application if your test scores fall below a ‘cutoff’.

Since there are no restrictions on the number of times you can take either test, you never know what could happen if you decide to take the exams in December. Some schools even let you super score, which means that they will take the highest score by section across multiple test sessions and create an overall composite that will go into your application. If your intended schools do in fact have this policy, then strongly consider taking one, or both, tests again in December.

However, be sure to investigate if any of the schools on your list have a ‘send all scores’ policy. Some universities, like Yale and Stanford, call upon you to report all of your test scores to them. While many let you pick and choose what scores you’d like to send, some assume that you will send all of them.

If you’ve taken the SAT and/or ACT an excessive number of times, it might make some schools wary of your application. Some admissions officials would consider an overabundance of test scores a sign that you might not be ready for college because you’re having trouble improving your score.  Others might believe that it signifies poor work ethic, as it can give the impression that you didn’t properly prepare for the exam. If you’ve already taken the tests more than 3 times, you might want to avoid taking the SAT and/or ACT again in December.

December is rapidly approaching, and even up to a month’s worth of preparation time might be insufficient based on your academic strengths and weaknesses. Don’t take the tests for the wrong reasons. If you’re not going to study, or do not have the proper intentions, then don’t waste your time taking the test next month.

Finally, before you make any decision, look over the scores you currently have and reexamine your standardized testing goals. Remember, your college application consists of much more than just test scores. You might be able to strengthen your application in other ways before the January deadline, which will be a better use of your time and resources.