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A high score on your SAT or ACT is a valuable asset when it comes time to apply to colleges, but in order for your scores to help on your applications, they first need to get into the right hands. Score reports, sent directly from testing agencies to the colleges you specify, provide those colleges with official proof of your test performance.

 

Here at CollegeVine, we recommend that our clients plan to take the SAT or ACT at least twice in order to have the best possible chance at a good score. Of course, multiple test sessions generate multiple sets of scores, and managing these different scores adds another layer of complexity to how different colleges assess your applications.

 

When and how should you send your test scores to colleges? Can you pick and choose which scores to send, or will the college itself pick apart your scores using superscoring? What are your options if there’s a low score on your record, or if unexpected circumstances disrupt your performance on test day? In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to keep in mind in order to effectively manage your SAT and ACT scores.

 

 

Sending Score Reports: How It Works

 

Your score reports are simply an official record of your standardized test scores, which colleges use to verify your performance in addition to asking you to self-report scores on your applications. Depending on the test, the college, and the options you select, you may have the choice to pick and choose which test sittings you include on a score report, which is known as Score Choice. However, some colleges require that you send all scores from every time you’ve taken the SAT and/or the ACT. (We’ll go over this in greater detail below.)

 

You’ll have several opportunities to order scores both before and after test day. Your first opportunity comes when you register for the test, at which point you can specify a limited number of colleges to receive those scores. This assumes you already know where you plan to apply at the time you register for the test.

 

If you choose to send scores at this time, your first four score reports (and possibly more for students using test fee waivers) will be free of charge. There is a downside, however: you’re sending those scores without even having seen them yourself, which defeats the purpose of using Score Choice at colleges that participate in it.

 

If you’re taking the SAT, you can use your four free score reports to send scores up to nine days after your test dates. After this point—or after the test date, for the ACT—any score reports you send will incur a fee and will take about a week to be processed. Additional fees are charged for rush delivery (if you need it) or the reporting of scores that are more than a few years old.

 

After your test, you can order score reports online by logging into your College Board (for the SAT) or ACT account. You can also order by mail or by phone, with some restrictions. Since score reports take some time to process and send, make sure you keep an eye on your colleges’ deadlines for submitting scores.

 

You should know that the SAT in particular offers some additional options for getting your scores, including a scores-by-phone service and more detailed breakdowns of your test performance. However, these options refer only to the score report that comes to you. They’re separate from the score reports that are sent to the colleges you designate.

 

For more information on the mechanics of sending your test scores, visit the official SAT and ACT websites.

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What About Superscoring?

 

Many aspiring college applicants take their standardized tests multiple times in hopes of improving their score. Each time you take the SAT or ACT, you’ll receive an overall score, but you (and the colleges you apply to) will also see the subscores on various sections of the test that were used to calculate your overall score.

 

If a college “superscores” the SAT or ACT, it means that when you apply, the school will look over all your test results and select the highest score you’ve achieved on each subsection, whether or not those subscores come from the same test administration. The school will then recalculate an overall SAT or ACT score for you based on these high scores—again, regardless of whether they all occurred during the same test administration—and use that overall test score for admissions purposes.

 

Basically, superscoring allows you to maximize your test scores and show off your best work on every section of the test, even if those personal bests didn’t all happen on the same day. Obviously, this can work to your advantage. However, not all colleges use this method.

 

Below, you’ll find a list of notable colleges that are known to superscore the SAT and the ACT. (Overall, fewer colleges choose to superscore the ACT than the SAT.) Bear in mind that not all superscoring colleges are listed here, and colleges’ individual approaches to test scores as part of the application vary. It’s always best to follow whatever instructions are given by the college itself and to contact their admissions office with any questions

 

 

Selected SAT Superscorers

 

 

Selected ACT Superscorers

 

 

What Do I Do With A Low Test Score?

 

If you end up with a score on your ACT or SAT score report that you’re not proud of, your options depend upon the colleges you’re planning to apply to. Some colleges will allow you to pick and choose which test administration’s scores you’ll send to a particular school. “Score Choice” is the official name of the SAT version of this program, but the term is used generically for the ACT version as well.

 

Score Choice can be a great option if, for instance, you initially got a low score on the SAT or ACT, but raised your score considerably in a subsequent administration. On the other hand, it may not be necessary if your college uses superscores, since your lower scores will be discarded anyway.

 

There are many colleges and other programs that explicitly don’t allow you to use Score Choice, and instead require you to submit all the scores you’ve received from all test sittings. These include some high-profile and popular schools like Stanford and Georgetown, as well as some scholarship programs. If you’re considering using the Score Choice option, check first to learn whether the colleges you’re interested in accept it.

 

There’s one more thing you should know about low SAT and ACT scores. You may encounter a situation in which you leave the testing location already knowing that you did much worse than anticipated. For example, let’s say you suddenly became ill in the middle of the test and weren’t able to concentrate at your normal level.

 

In cases like these, you have an additional option: cancelling your test scores. You can fill out a cancellation form in person at the testing location on your way out, or you can send it via fax or overnight mail within the next few days. Either way, you’ll have to act fast; your cancellation must be received no later than the Thursday after your testing date.

 

Think carefully before you cancel your test scores; once you’ve chosen this nuclear option, there’s no going back, and you’ll have to retest in order to have any scores to submit. You’ll also miss out on the opportunity to see and review those scores, so you’ll never know how well you actually did. However, if your testing experience was truly disastrous and you’ll have opportunities to retake the test before application deadlines, cancellation may be your best option.

 

Studying and preparing for the content you’ll find on the SAT and ACT is, of course, highly important in the college application process. However, making sure your scores arrive where and when they’re supposed to arrive is an essential component of the process as well. Colleges that require standardized tests need official score reports in order to make their decisions—there’s no way around it.

 

Practices like superscoring and score choice make managing your test scores a little more complicated, but they also allow you to hone your admission strategy. Even if your colleges of choice don’t participate in these programs, it’s best that you find this out and understand what it means for you before you take your SAT and/or ACT.

 

For more guidance on taking the SAT and the ACT, check out these pages from the CollegeVine blog, which link to all our coverage of these tests, their preparation strategies, their content, their scoring, and how to interpret and use their results.

 

 

Preparing for your standardized tests well in advance is always a good idea, and getting one-on-one assistance with your test prep. The CollegeVine SAT Tutoring Program combines high-scoring tutors, personal attention, and unique strategies to help you improve your performance. Visit us online for more information about our tutoring services.

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Monikah Schuschu

Monikah Schuschu

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.
Monikah Schuschu