What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How Many Times Should a Student Take the SAT?

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If you’re the parent of a high schooler, you might be wondering how your teen can get a leg up in the college admissions process. Does your teen need four years of varsity sports? Can he or she win points for prolonged involvement in service work or a stellar GPA? While all of these factors are indeed important to the college admissions process, one factor that requires far less of a commitment can also be weighed quite heavily.


While standardized tests are no easy task to take on, in the grand scheme of things, the amount of time and energy your teen devotes to the SAT or ACT is small in comparison to many other college admissions factors. That makes your teen’s standardized test scores a relatively easy factor to manipulate, as compared to things like grades and extracurriculars. In order for your teen to perform as well as possible, they should know just how many times to take these storied tests. In this post, we’ll discuss the optimal number of SATs to take, along with some tips about how to improve scores.


Do You Have to Take the SAT More Than Once?


Every once in a while, we at CollegeVine hear from families who seem a little confused about the SAT process. Many hear so much about retaking the SAT, that they don’t realize that taking the SAT more than once is entirely optional. In fact, taking the SAT for the first time is optional as well.


The reason that college applicants take the SAT is to fulfill testing requirements and prove their academic potential. That being said, every college that accepted the SAT in 2018 also accepted the ACT. Furthermore, some schools don’t require any standardized tests at all. In these cases, other indicators of academic prowess are usually required, such as a transcript and GPA.


Most colleges, though, do require standardized test scores as part of the application process, and if your teen wants to apply to one of these colleges he or she will need to take the SAT. In this case, your teen’s performance will determine how many times they take the SAT.


Generally the greatest score improvements on the SAT take place between a student’s first and second sitting. For this reason, it makes sense to take the test more than once, unless your teen clearly hits it out of the park on the first attempt.


How Many Times Do We Recommend Taking the SAT?


According to our data, your teen should aim to take the SAT up to three times in order to improve his or her score. After three attempts, admissions committees tend to discount score improvements and might even look less favorably on your teen’s scores.

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What Is Superscoring?


Some college admissions committees take part in a practice called superscoring, which can impact how they look at your teen’s SAT scores. In this practice, admissions committees consider the highest score an applicant receives on each section of the SAT, regardless of whether these scores were achieved in a single sitting.


For example, if your teen scores a 680 Verbal and 710 Math on their first SAT, and a 730 Verbal and 690 Math on the second SAT, the admissions committee who uses superscoring will view the composite SAT score as a 1440, with scores of 730 Verbal and 710 Math.


To learn more about superscoring and how it can work to your teen’s advantage during the admissions process, check out our post Superscoring on the SAT and ACT: What College Applicants Need to Know.


When Should a Student Start Preparing for the SAT?


It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when a student should begin SAT prep, because prep really exists in a multitude of forms.


Beginning in ninth grade, students can focus on doing well in their classes in order to gain as much knowledge as possible and passively prepare for the SAT. During 10th grade, they can get a little more serious about SAT prep by reading a variety of different literary genres, downloading the Collegeboard’s SAT Daily Practice app, and taking the PSAT 10 during the second semester. In 11th grade, active prep will increase steeply. This is when most students take the PSAT in the fall, and then use that data to really guide prep work in earnest, leading up to a spring SAT date.


While there’s no single timeline that works best for everyone, when it comes to SAT prep, 10th grade is a good time to start, and by 11th grade students should be seriously invested in the process.


How Can a Student Improve His or Her SAT Score Before the Next Test?


Review the Score Report. One of the best ways to work on improving an SAT score is by using the wealth of information provided in the score report. Many students are so excited to receive their reports that they hardly read over anything except their section and composite scores. In reality, though, the score report contains tons of information about subsections and helps to identify your teen’s strengths as well as areas where they can improve. Check out The CollegeVine Guide to SAT Scores: All Your Questions Answered to learn more.


Calm Test Anxiety. Sometimes, SAT scores are negatively impacted by test anxiety even when a student is well prepared for the test. If your teen underperformed on the test, scoring significantly below their practice test results, test anxiety could be the cause. For more information about taming test anxiety, see our post 10 Ways to Overcome Test Taking Anxiety.


Bring in a Professional. The nature of standardized testing makes taking them a unique skill in and of itself. Unless you are deeply experienced in strategies and skills specific to standardized testing, sometimes it is best to leave standardized test prep to the professionals.


Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


Want to know how your SAT score/ACT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.