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The Ivy Coach Daily

June 17, 2023

How Many Times Can a Student Take the SAT?

College buildings and lawn
Students can take the SAT as often as they’d like, but how often should they take it? Photo credit: King of Hearts.

Many SAT test-takers believe they can take the SAT as many times as they’d like. As such, they may take their first SAT in June of sophomore year, retake it in August before junior year, and in October, November, December, March, May, and June of junior year. Heck, maybe they’ll continue retaking the SAT through the summer and fall of senior year, too!

But are these students wrong to think they can — or should — take the SAT so many times throughout their high school years? Or are these students giving themselves the best shot of earning the highest score possible — and ultimately optimizing their case for elite college admission — by taking it so many times until they get top scores?

Students Can Take the SAT as Many Times As They’d Like

Let’s begin with what’s allowed. Students can take the SAT as many times as they’d like. If they want to start taking actual administrations of the SAT in ninth grade, they have that right. 

The College Board states on its website, “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.”

And what The College Board has expressed is not untrue. But keep in mind that The College Board is a business. The College Board, whose coffers are presumably running lower than in past years due to the spread of test-optional admissions policies at colleges across America, are financially incentivized for students to take the SAT multiple times.

The Advantages of Taking the SAT Multiple Times

Don’t get us wrong. There are clear advantages to taking the SAT multiple times. Most colleges, after all, superscore the SAT. Superscoring the SAT means that a college will combine your highest reading and math scores over more than one administration to arrive at your SAT composite score used in their calculations.

If, for instance, a student scores a 780 math and 760 reading on a June administration and a 760 math and 780 reading on an August administration, the student’s superscored SAT is 1560 — comprised of the 780 math from the June test and the 780 reading from the August administration. And, in this case, we do indeed recommend superscoring (unless, of course, the student can get a 1560 or higher all on one subsequent administration of the SAT).

That said, if, for instance, a student scores a 780 math and a 660 reading on a June administration and a 660 math and 780 reading on an August administration, we would not recommend the student submit either score — at least until these most recent, post-pandemic admissions cycles. Why the change?

Before the pandemic, colleges asked for official score reports. So even though students inserted their highest scores on the individual sections of the SAT on their Common Application, admissions officers could refer to the official College Board score reports and see the alarming 660 reading from June and 660 math from August. These low scores will likely scare admissions officers, and they might even be inclined to think the student cheated by going back on the math section when they should have been working on reading, or vice versa.

Since the pandemic, just as America’s colleges have been hitting The College Board where it hurts by going test-optional, many are also hitting them by not requiring students to submit official score reports from The College Board until after students announce their intention to enroll. Thus, admissions officers typically only see those lower scores after the student is admitted. And since the scores reported are still accurate, it’s at that point an improbable reason for the revocation of an offer of admission.

The Disadvantages of Taking the SAT Multiple Times

But while we at Ivy Coach are all for a student taking the SAT as often as they’d like until they reach their max or score (or scores), it’s always preferable for students to list only one SAT administration in The Common Application.

After all, when a student lists multiple SAT scores on their Common Application, it has the appearance the student had to work hard to land that top score. Contrary to popular belief, hard work is not admired in elite college admissions. Instead, we would much prefer admissions officers to think a student took the SAT only once, nailed it because the material came naturally to them, and moved on.

The College Board’s Score Choice policy even greases the wheels of taking the SAT multiple times so a student gets their best reading and math score all in one sitting — so they don’t have to superscore.

Certain Sneaky Elite Universities Ask for All SAT Scores

That said, there’s a rarely discussed sneaky caveat to the whole argument of taking the SAT as many times as a student wishes until they get the score or scores — in the event they have to superscore — that satisfy them. So what’s the caveat?

Certain sneaky universities — like Stanford University and Georgetown University — ask students who submit SAT scores to submit all  of their scores. That’s right — these schools circumvent College Board’s Score Choice policy by asking to see all scores. And if students aren’t honest about their scores to these schools on their applications, it can absolutely jeopardize their admission.

You see, College Board will never reveal scores to colleges that students don’t want revealed. But it’s the student’s high school one has to worry about since some high school counselors walk themselves into traps during off-handed conversations with Stanford or Georgetown admissions officers. These counselors — perhaps accidentally but in violation of a student’s FERPA rights — reveal scores from the private agency of The College Board to admissions officers. It’s not right. Yet it happens quite regularly.

How Many Times Should a Student Take the SAT?

So while students can take the SAT as many times as they’d like, and certain advantages come with taking the test multiple times, certain disadvantages also come if students don’t play their cards right — except for Ivy Coach’s students.

Ivy Coach’s students have an ethical workaround for Stanford’s and Georgetown’s unethical move of demanding that students who report SAT scores report all of them.

How does that ethical workaround work? That’s cute. While we love sharing information on Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog, we are a business with a delicious secret sauce. If you want to taste Ivy Coach’s secret sauce, we’re afraid you’ll have to become a client. We know. We’re such a tease.

FAQ on How Many Times Students Can Take the SAT

If a student’s best reading and math are on two different administrations, is it always worth superscoring?

Not always. If a student only performed 10 points higher on one section during a second SAT administration, it may not be worth showing admissions officers the second score. After all, it will then appear like the student had to work hard to get that top score over two sittings. And admissions officers might assume the score of the lower section on the first administration was lower than the reality.

Is it wrong that certain universities ask to see all SAT administrations if students do choose to submit SAT scores?

Yes, it’s wrong. Most top universities are test-optional (Georgetown is an exception). So, at the majority of these schools, students don’t have to submit test scores. Yet most students correctly know that all else being equal, applicants with excellent test scores will always enjoy an advantage over students who don’t submit test scores. So why should these schools penalize students who submit SAT scores by asking for all of their scores? These students took the SAT under the Score Choice Policy. As such, they presumed — erroneously — that they’d only have to report their best score(s).

From atop Ivy Coach’s soapbox in elite college admissions, we call for these schools to cease asking for all SAT scores. It’s high time these schools stop fooling applicants.

When should a student begin prepping for the SAT?

Generally, the earlier one starts prepping for the SAT, the better (within reason — parents of kindergartners, relax!). However, it would behoove a student to take Precalculus before sitting for an actual SAT. So if a student takes Precalculus in sophomore year, they can start testing for the SAT towards the end of that school year. If a student takes Precalculus in junior year, we’d recommend waiting until the end of junior year to begin taking the SAT.

Does Ivy Coach offer SAT prep?

We sure do offer SAT tutoring. Fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, indicate that you’re interested in SAT tutoring, and we’ll contact you.

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