The mystery and anticipation of the new SAT are now behind you (or will soon be). You’ve taken the test, but it didn’t go so well. In fact, it didn’t go well at all. What do you do now? Follow these tips before you rush to cancel your scores, give up your college dreams, or flee the country.
First things first: Relax! No matter how you think you did, you just completed a gruelling four-hour test (if you took the essay). You’ve likely been stressing out or been anxious the last few days, and while these emotions may have helped you buckle down and study, they won’t help you make a clear, rational decision about what to do next.
Take some time off from thinking about the SAT. If you’ve just returned from the test location, enjoy the rest of your weekend as much as you can. Refreshing your mind will help you make better decisions about how you should handle your test performance and results.
2. Honestly evaluate how you think you did
After you’ve had some time to chill, think about how you actually did, not how you feel you must have done. Most everyone feels they did poorly after taking the SAT. It’s a natural reaction to such a strenuous test. In fact, thinking that you did really well could be a sign that you actually did poorly, so take your initial gut feeling with a grain of salt. It may not be as bad as you think.
To help you make a more rational evaluation, consider why you think you did poorly. Were there questions you found very difficult? Did you run out of time on a section and have to guess or leave answer choices blank? Did you feel especially anxious during the entire test because you arrived at the testing location late? Digging deeper into why you feel you bombed the test will help you figure out whether you truly have a cause for concern and what you should do next.
3. Consider your options
Cancelling your exam may seem necessary if you think you bombed the SAT, especially if one of the colleges you’re applying to requires you to report all test scores. But cancelling is the most extreme measure you can take. Once you cancel your test score, it can’t be uncancelled, and you’re resigning yourself to retaking the exam without seeing your results.
However, there are legitimate reasons to cancel your score if something occurred that severely affected your performance: for example, you didn’t answer a large portion of questions, you were sick and unable to focus, you fell asleep, or something happened during the test that severely distracted you. Remember that if you do decide to cancel your score, you’ll need to do so by 11:59 p.m. on the Wednesday following your test date, and you can’t do it by email or phone. Instead, you’ll need to submit this signed form.
If you don’t think your test performance warrants a cancellation, you still have plenty of options if you’re worried about schools seeing your results. The College Board allows you to choose four schools to send your test scores to for free.You may have already selected these schools when you registered for the test. If you didn’t, you have nine days from your test date to choose these four schools. After that, you can still send your scores to schools for a cost of $11.25 per school.
If you don’t want your top college choices to see the results of your test, don’t use the free score reports or choose instead to send your score reports to colleges you are not considering. If you later find out that you did well on the test (the March 5 SAT results come out May 10), you can always send the score reports to your top schools for the additional fee.
4. If you think you’ll retake the SAT, plan accordingly
Whether you cancel your score or think you’d like to take the SAT again, know that taking the SAT a second time doesn’t guarantee a better score. If you register for another SAT but change nothing in how you prepare, you shouldn’t expect a different result. You need to be honest about what taking the test again means and what you want to get out of it. Make it worth your while if you want a better score by committing to a study plan before you register. Unlike your grades, extracurricular activities, or the relationships with your recommendation writers, your SAT score is one of the few parts of your application that you can improve with just a month or two of studying.
Registration closes about a month before the date of each test. For the May 7th SAT, registration closes April 8th, so you have more than a month to decide whether you want to take it again as soon as possible or to give yourself more time. Also, you may want to try the ACT if you struggled with the SAT. While the content of the tests does overlap some, especially in Math, the ACT is considered to be more of a test of knowledge than the SAT, which aims to test your reasoning ability. Since almost all colleges give equal weight to the SAT and ACT, choose the test that plays to your strengths.
Let us know how you think you did on the March 5th SAT (or will do if you’re reading this before the test) in the comments below.