How Many Times Can You Take the SAT? Best Practices for Retakes

04/07/20248 minute read
How Many Times Can You Take the SAT? Best Practices for Retakes

When it comes to the SAT, many students we work with wonder just how many attempts they should make to maximize their scores and improve their chances of getting into their dream colleges.

So how many times can you take the SAT, and how many times should you? In this blog, we take a look to determine the ideal number of tests you should take.

How Many Times Can You Take the SAT?

The short answer is you can take the SAT as many times as you want.

The SAT test is a critical component of the college admissions process, and it’s offered several times throughout the year, typically around 7 or 8 times yearly. This frequency provides ample opportunities to improve your score.

How Many Times Should I Take the SAT?

Ideally, we recommend taking the exam twice.

If you don’t like your score on your first sitting, you’ll have the summer break to focus on preparation and practice before potentially retaking the exam in your senior year. This strategy maximizes your chances of achieving a high score by giving you sufficient time to improve.

In theory, taking the exam as many times as possible sounds like a good idea - you might think that the more you take it, the higher your score would be. That’s not necessarily true, and we generally advise not to overdo it.

Taking the test too frequently can lead to burnout and reduce the time you have for thorough preparation. Instead of scheduling multiple tests in quick succession, space them out to ensure each attempt is met with adequate preparation.

What Year Should I Take the SAT?

This might change depending on your personal circumstances, but generally speaking, the best time to take the SAT for the first time is during your junior year of high school. Taking it early allows you to understand the test format and identify areas for improvement. 

Timing your SATs during your junior year also aligns well with the college application process. Many colleges have early decision or early action deadlines in the fall of your senior year. By having your SAT scores ready by then, you can submit your applications early, potentially increasing your chances of acceptance. 

Besides that, if you get a good score in your junior year, you can focus on other critical aspects of your college application during your senior year, such as writing essays, securing recommendation letters, and completing other necessary forms.

How Long Does It Take for SAT Scores to Come Out?

SAT scores are typically released about 2-4 weeks after the test date. This timeline allows you to plan for retakes if necessary. 

For instance, if you take the SAT in March and find that your scores aren’t as high as you hoped, you’ll know that you’ll need to retake the exam within a few weeks, giving you plenty of time to study for your retake.

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Why You Should Take the SATs More Than Once

1. More Options for College Applications

Most colleges allow you to choose which SAT scores to submit, a policy often referred to as "Score Choice." This means that you can take the test multiple times without worrying that a lower score will negatively impact your application.

You can choose to send only your highest scores to colleges, ensuring that your application reflects your best performance.

2. Superscoring

Many colleges offer superscoring, where they combine your highest section scores from multiple test dates to create your best possible composite score. This policy can significantly boost your application by:

  • Optimizing Scores: Even if you have a bad day and score poorly in one section, a subsequent test where you perform better in that section can be combined with your highest scores from other sections.
  • Reducing Pressure: Knowing that you can focus on improving individual sections without the need to excel in all areas simultaneously reduces the overall pressure of the test.

For example, let's say you took the SAT twice. On your first attempt, you scored 600 in the Math section and 700 in the Reading and Writing section. On your second attempt, you improved your Math score to 650 but your Reading and Writing section score dropped to 680.

With superscoring, colleges would take your highest Math score (650) from the second test and your highest Reading and Writing score (700) from the first test, resulting in a superscore of 1350 (650 + 700).

3. Familiarizing Yourself with Test Conditions

One of the primary advantages of taking the SAT multiple times is becoming more acquainted with the test under real conditions.

The SAT is a standardized test with a unique format, strict timing, and specific question types. While practice tests are beneficial, nothing quite compares to the experience of taking the actual exam. Each attempt helps you get more comfortable with:

  1. Test Format: Understanding the layout of the test, the types of questions asked, and the sequence of sections.
  2. Time Management: Developing strategies to effectively manage the time allotted for each section, ensuring you can complete all questions.
  3. Test-Day Routine: Familiarizing yourself with the logistics of test day, such as what to bring, how to check in, and how to handle any unexpected situations.

4. Better Handling of Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a common issue that can hinder performance, especially on a high-stakes test like the SAT. It manifests as a combination of emotional, physical, and cognitive symptoms that can significantly impact performance.

Taking the SAT multiple times can help alleviate this anxiety through:

  • Familiarity: Repeated exposure to the test environment and conditions can make the experience less intimidating over time.
  • Confidence Building: Each successful attempt, even with incremental improvements, can build your confidence and reduce overall anxiety.
  • Stress Management: Developing and practicing stress management techniques during multiple test sittings can help you perform better under pressure.

+ Read more about how to manage test anxiety when taking the SATs

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Final Thoughts

While the flexibility to take the SAT as many times as you wish exists, strategically planning your attempts can save time, reduce stress, and enhance your performance.

Remember, each student's path is unique. Factors such as individual goals, test anxiety, and the specific requirements of your target colleges should guide your decision on how many times to take the SAT.

Working with an expert tutor is an excellent way to create a perfect plan to maximize your score. Some of the best teachers in the world tutor at Crimson!

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