Is It Bad to Take the SAT More Than Two Times?
The short answer is no—most, if not all, schools will have no problem seeing that you have taken the SAT more than twice. But as with all issues concerning college applications and admissions, there are a number of complex factors to consider here. Below I outline what you should think about and research before deciding whether you want to take the SAT once, twice, three times, or more.
Check the score submission policies of your schools, especially your dream schools
College Board has a terrific service called Score Choice. It allows you to submit only your best test scores to colleges and universities, creating what College Board calls your SAT Superscore. The best part of this service is that you can mix and match by sending your best scores from each section—there’s no need to send all scores from a given test date, as long as a given school allows for Superscores.
But be warned: not all college and universities allow you to mix and match scores through Score Choice. As you’ll see in this more thorough explanation of Score Choice, some schools— including many of the most selective schools in the US, including Stanford and UC Berkeley—require that you submit all of your SAT scores. Others, such as Harvard and MIT, require that you submit your best total score from a given test date. This is why it’s vital that you check each school’s policies.
To check on a school’s policies regarding score submission, you can use College Board’s BigFuture site. But be sure to double check individual school websites, as admission policies can change often.
As a general rule, approach each aspect of your college applications with planning and forethought. When it comes to deciding on how many times you should take the SAT, the first question to consider is your chosen schools’ policies on score submission.
Take the test early and often...but not with College Board
One of the many advantages offered by taking SAT classes at Elite is that you will be tested weekly and in conditions that reproduce those of the real thing.
It is true that most students improve nearly each time they take the test (according to College Board, ⅔ students improve when they take the test a second time) especially if they study and practice in between tests. But you can and should take practice tests without registering for the SAT each time.
Each time you take the actual test, make it count. You should not rely on the idea that you will magically improve from one test to the next just because you’ve been through it once, or you’ve become smarter with time, or you’re going to eat the perfect prep meal beforehand.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Take practice tests in between. Make the SAT a regular part of your weekly routine. And then, go into your two or three real test sessions with the tools you need to get the score you want.
Taking the SAT isn’t free
With the essay, it currently costs $64.50 each time you register for the SAT. For some students, that cost can be burdensome. This is just one more reason to make it count each time you take a crack at the real test.
The SAT is just one part of a college application
As vital as it is that you prepare and practice for the SAT, it cannot be stressed enough that you need to keep pace with the other aspects of your college applications, especially your GPA, extracurriculars, and college essays.
It can sometimes be difficult to remember that you don’t actually have all the time in the world. If you often find yourself saying “I have plenty of time,” I recommend reading this piece on procrastination.
The strongest college applications are methodically planned out years in advance. You might be brilliant and do well under pressure, but it is very difficult to compete with applicants who have devoted hundreds of hours to the range of factors needed to get into the most selective colleges and universities.
Remember, don’t put all of your eggs in the SAT basket. There are plenty of others to fill.
So, how many times should you take the SAT? That depends on you—on your schools, your financial situation, and your time commitments. There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. And if you can improve drastically between the third and fourth shot at the test, then of course, you should take it that fourth time.
But for most, the best route is to plan to take the test with College Board 2-3 times. Make those 2-3 attempts really count, and really represent your best possible score, by taking many practice tests in a timed, group setting that mimics the real thing and by studying the skills assessed in between those practice tests.
Stephen P. is a writer and teacher based in Los Angeles. He has taught literature and writing courses at several universities and has taught writing and reading at Elite Prep Los Angeles since 2010.