You should probably take the SAT more than once unless you do amazing on your first try. However, because there’s so much pressure on students today to impress college admissions boards, it’s easy to go overboard and take the test excessively. It’s important to know when it’s time to finally stop and move on.
Take a minute to learn how many times you should take the SAT, how much is overkill, and a rough timeline for balancing out attempts versus preparation time.
If you’re in the process of preparing for the SAT, take a moment to check out our various SAT prep course options today.
How Many Times You CAN Take The SAT
In theory, you can take the test as many times as you’d like between your junior and senior years.
There is no explicitly stated cut off from the College Board. Moreover, the SAT currently offers 7 times per year that you can take it. That means within the space of two years, you could conceivably take the SAT 14 times…sometimes too much really is too much. Besides, even attempting to take it that many times will cause more trouble than good. Let’s go into why you shouldn’t take the SAT too many times first.
Cons of Taking The SAT Too Many Times
Contrary to belief, sometimes more is more. Taking the SAT too often can ironically cause more trouble than good. Here’s why.
First, you have to consider which colleges and universities allow students to use the College Board’s Score Choice feature. Score Choice, in a nutshell, lets you choose which test date scores you want to send to colleges. Let’s say that you took the test four times between your junior and senior years. Of those four times, you scored well on the last two, but not as high on the first pair. With Score Choice, you can just send those final two tests for consideration to the schools you are applying to actively. However, there’s a big catch. Not every college and university allows you to use Score Choice.
Schools like Stanford, Yale, and Carnegie Mellon, to only name a few, have a “send all scores” policy. In that case, they’ll see not only the test dates you crushed but also the ones that you didn’t do well on, and take that into account. That’s why it’s important when looking at prospective schools, to do the research and ask if they accept Score Choice submissions or not.
If they do, then great, you have the opportunity to take the test multiple times, and then filter through which ones to send over. If they are “send all scores” schools, then you have to be much more careful with your actual testing. In those cases, you may need to spend even more time on focused test prep and practice tests beforehand. Figure out what sections give you trouble ahead of time instead of finding out the hard way on test day, when the score counts.
Second, taking the SAT too many times will eventually cause you nothing but stress and cost more money than necessary. Why? Because over time, as you put more time into test prep and address your problem areas, your levels of point gains will decrease. We’ve seen it happen plenty of times; let’s say if you take the SAT for the first time and get an ok score.
Afterward, when you receive your score report, it’s easy to see which areas gave you the most trouble and to start digging into them before taking the SAT again on a second test date. You will likely see a significant score improvement because all the areas that easily tripped you up before will likely be easier for you.
However, let’s say that now you want to keep taking the test, again and again, to see how far you can push your score up. Over time, the score gains will noticeably decrease since you’ve already handled the easy improvements and now are stuck on sections that prove to be the most difficult for you. This decrease doesn’t mean that you aren’t improving.
What it does mean though is that the time investment you were originally put in no longer yields the same results. This is the point where you risk mental and emotional burnout by spending more and more time obsessing over minimal point gains. Your family will also run into difficulties too as retaking the test, along with any helpful test prep, racks up a large bill plus plenty of occupied Saturdays.
How Many Times To Take The SAT…For Real
In general, it is better to limit the number of times you take the SAT and spend more energy on resources to thoroughly prepare for each test date.
From our experience, we would recommend students taking it no more than three times or so. Why? Because, if you space it out over your junior and beginning of senior years, there is plenty of time to prepare for each test date, while also limiting the overall times you test. With that in mind, here’s a simple game plan of how to approach taking the SAT timeline-wise, so you can maximize your score potential without burning out. The final number is yours to decide, of course.
SAT Test-Taking Gameplan
Here’s our suggested timeline for approaching multiple test dates for the SAT, to maximize your score potential.
First, try and take full advantage of both your junior and senior years. Not only will it give you more time to prepare, but you can also space out the test dates to be favorable to your schedule and commitments. Many students will take the first crack at it in March of their junior year. This is one of the first opportunities to take the test and establish a baseline score; if you do amazing on it the first time, then great. If you see that there’s room for improvement, then at least you’re now aware of what to focus on.
After that, taking the test again over either the fall/winter is often done. Why? Because high school is out over summer and there’s much more time available to focus on test prep. Moreover, that test prep can tailor to those sections that need the most improvement. Using as much of your summer break as possible to sharpen up your test-taking skills isn’t a bad idea. After taking it then in either the fall or winter, you now have two test dates under your belt with the second date scores being much higher. If you want to take one more crack at it, then plan on doing it in the spring of your senior year.
You will have your holiday vacations from the late fall and winter to do a final round of test prep. Take that final test, see how your score ends up, and then put work into applying to your dream school list. Remember that applying to college involves more than just doing well on a test; other activities like filling out the applications, essays, recommendation letters, personal statements, etc. all come into play. Ignoring all of those facets until the last second will cause you trouble.
In the end, how you choose to plan out your SAT test-taking timeline is up to you, but this rough outline can at least help you figure out how much time to allow yourself for prep, avoid burn out, and not turn in subpar scores to schools that may want to see every test date score report you accumulate. Now let’s look at test prep itself finally, your secret weapon to succeeding no matter how many times you take the SAT.
Don’t Take The SAT Unprepared
At Prep Expert, we understand how much time and effort it takes to score high on the SAT.
Our founder literally took himself from an ok score to a perfect one using the very techniques we teach. Not only do we provide you with knowledge, but we also help provide you with confidence.
The confidence to walk into that testing center knowing that you have taken the time to cover your bases on every test section, taken man practice tests, figured out and fixed your problem areas, etc. Our proven strategies, taught by our 99th percentile-scoring instructors, have helped students both get into the schools of their dreams and secure lucrative scholarships.
The best part? We provide assistance year-round and always stay up-to-date with the latest test updates. If you would like to learn more about how we do it today, then be sure to check out one of our upcoming classes now or contact us by phone or email to get the answers you need.
For more information and tips, be sure to check out Prep Expert.