As is true with most of the tasks around the college admissions process, getting started early is critical to keeping stress levels low. “How many times can you take the SAT?” is a good question for families to ask early in the college prep process because it means that you’re thinking about the SAT far enough in advanced that you can choose to take it more than once if you like.
Here’s the thing: students can take the SAT as many times as they want. Unlike the ACT, College Board places no restrictions on how often students can take the SAT. Only the most recent 6 scores will stay on file at a time, but if you want to take it 38 times, College Board is happy to let you do so.
However, while you can test as much as often as you want, I don’t recommend taking the SAT more than 4 times total. Here’s why…
1. You may have to share your bad scores.
While College Board allows students to select which test dates they share with colleges via the Score Choice feature, some colleges require that students submit all of their SAT scores in order to be considered for admission.
In other words, you can’t use Score Choice if you want to apply to certain colleges.
Unfortunately, this often isn’t explained to students before they start testing. Make sure you know what your favorite colleges’ policies are regarding Score Choice before you decide to rely upon it to hide potentially disappointing scores.
2. It’s a waste of time and money.
Unless you are actively preparing for the SAT, your scores won’t improve very much by simply testing again and again. Taking the test over and over hoping that you will improve is a pretty silly plan.
However, College Board’s open-ended testing policy leads a lot of families to do just that. They sacrifice a lot of Saturday mornings and hundreds of dollars in registration fees that a little bit of planning could’ve helped them avoid.
To make sure this doesn’t happen to your family, I’d love to share with you the ideal way to go about taking the SAT so you can take get your higher scores quickly in as few test dates as possible. We’ll do this by answering a slightly different question: how many times should you take the SAT?
How many times should you take the SAT?
While you can take the SAT as many times as you like, for the sake of everyone’s sanity my advice to college-bound families is to have their students plan to take the exam at least 2 times after some preparation but to attempt to take the test no more than 4 times total.
In my experience, the ideal testing timeline looks something like this…
- Step 1: Take a free practice SAT at home to get a sense of your student’s starting score.
- Step 2: Research a few favorite colleges’ average SAT scores for accepted students.
- Step 3: Assess the difference between your student’s starting score and target score and decide on an SAT prep path.
- Step 4: Register for 2 back-to-back SAT test dates keeping a 3rd potential test date in reserve…just in case you want to snag a few extra points! : )
My daughter is a junior now, she got 1340 on her first sat and got 1540 from the another sat this month. Her essay is only 6,4,6. Which college will use the essay grades and is this will make her sat scores look bad? She doesn’t want to retake the 3rd sat test and saying she wants to focus on sat subject test, do you think this is good plan? Thanks!
While I typically don’t encourage students to focus too much on the essay, her scores are a bit low as compared to her full test score. I wouldn’t want her essay score to raise any questions for an admissions officer.
Since she’s a junior, I do think that she should finish up this year focusing on taking her SAT Subject Tests in May and June. I’d encourage her to take each test twice on those dates in order to give her the best chance of getting her highest possible score.
Colleges will have her personal statement to consider as a better indicator of her writing skills. However, because of the large disparity in scores, in this case, I would encourage her to take the SAT one more time – possibly in August.
If she can move the needle on her essay scores to the 7-9 range, I think that would be sufficient to keep those scores from raising any questions for an admissions officer.
Let me know if you have any other questions!
What’s the wait that you must wait in between retaking the SAT
Thank you for your question. For the SAT, there isn’t a mandatory wait time between test dates. You’re welcome to take back-to-back test dates if you like. In fact, that’s what I recommend for students who have prepared for their exams!
Let me know if you have any other questions!
Nicole Porter says
My daughter took the SAT in June and scored high on her math section but missed her reading by one point. Does she have to take the entire test again or can she just retake the reading section?
Unfortunately, the SAT is an all-or-nothing affair. She will have to retake the entire exam. Luckily, this provides her with an opportunity for her to raise her score in all areas. I would encourage her to focus her review efforts primarily on reading but not to ignore math completely. If she can get even 10 or 20 more points in math, that can significantly impact her financial aid awards in the future.
Every little bit adds up! Good luck to her!
I am 53, I graduated from high school many years ago, been to some colleges, taken some classes, but have failed most. Then in the last 10? years I found out I needed vision therapy, took it, and got some severe allergy issues under control. Than I went to a community and tech college and took 2 classes, received an A and a B+ on those classes. I would like to continue in college but feel like most of my grades in the past, including my ACT score from high school will keep me out from my career goal. Could I retake the ACT or try the SAT, and would that score take the place of the last one?
Congratulations on deciding to continue your education. Your test scores are active for 5 years. After that, if test scores are required, you’ll need to retake the exam. You’ll want to check with your prospective college as to what the requirements are for admission to the school. If test scores are required for admission and/or financial aid, I’d encourage you to choose which test is the best fit for you and take it.
If you’re not sure if the ACT or SAT is right for you, this video may help: higherscorestestprep.com/act-vs-sat/.
Good luck to you!
Is there any age criteria for taking SAT ? For john Hopkins CTY they recommend to take SAT at grade 7
Thank you for your question! While students can certainly choose to take the test as a part of the talent search programs like Duke TIP, Iowa Talent Search, etc., I do not recommend that younger students take the test just to see how they’ll do.
This applies for any student, really.
Because the SAT (and the ACT) are both fairly tricky exams, if students want to get their benchmark scores, I instead suggest that they take a full-length practice test at home to get that score.
It saves time and money and ensures that “bad” scores don’t end up being reported to prospective colleges.
You can find a free practice SAT here: https://www.higherscorestestprep.com/sat-practice-test/
And a free practice ACT here: https://www.higherscorestestprep.com/act-practice-test/
Also, if you’re interested, here’s the official policy regarding young test takers as set forth by College Board: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/special-circumstances/younger-students
Let me know if you have any other questions! I’m happy to help!
Marie G says
Is it required that the student submit both SAT and ACT scores to the colleges they are applying? Can the student decide to concentrate on one, i.e. the one he or she feels meets the score requirement.
Great question. While students are certainly welcome to take both tests, I advise them to pick the one they feel suits them best and focus their attentions there at first. If they decide to add in the alternate test later, they can.
Even though the ACT and SAT test similar concepts, they do so in very different ways so complete concentration on one at a time will help students improve their scores as much as possible. I find that most students who try to tackle both simultaneously end up having diminished results on both.
If you want help deciding which test is the best fit for your student, you can watch the short video I made here: higherscorestestprep.com/act-vs-sat/.
Let me know if you have any additional questions! I’m here to help!
Rick S says
My son is hoping to transfer to a top tier college upon completion of his AS degree at a local junior college. He is in a honors program and has a 4.00 GPA and is active with academic and leadership activities. However, his HS grades were just slightly above average as were his standardized test scores.
As he has high aspirations and in order to make himself more attractive as a transfer student, he would like to retake his SAT’s or ACT’s. He has done a a lot of independent preparation and scores well on practice tests. In our view, he can only benefit by improved scores albeit, as a already college student. Is this advisable? Some colleges will not accept scores for consideration if taken while in colleges while others don’t have any specific written policy on the topic.
Your thoughts appreciated.
Unfortunately, the answer to this question (as with many regarding college admissions) is that it is dependent upon the individual college’s transfer student policy. If the colleges he’s interested in transferring to don’t consider the scores then I would encourage him to focus more on the aspects of his resume that will have an impact.
That said, it may be that ACT or SAT scores don’t impact his admission but will impact his ability to earn scholarships or merit aid as a transfer student.
I would consider the advantages from the admission and financial angles before finalizing your decision. However, if it’s simply an exercise in testing, I’d forgo the testing process and pour that energy into the personal statement or activities that will help him stand apart from other transfer applicants.
– Lauren G.
I’m not entirely sure how the SAT subject tests factor into the process and how valuable they are. Could you shed some light on this, please? Thanks!
Great question. The SAT subject tests do factor in because they are offered on all of the same test dates as the full SAT except the March date.
I give my recommendations for the timeline for when to take the SAT subject tests in this article.
I hope this helps! If you have any follow up questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly @ email@example.com.
Hi, if you’re taking the tests back to back, say twice. Are there charges applied? Or do you just pay for the first test and continue to do the other tests for free?
Unless you have a fee waiver from College Board, you will have to pay for each exam that you take.
Hope this helps!
Our plan had been to have our child take the SAT and then the ACT this spring. Then, whichever test she performed stronger on, we would repeat in the Fall.
She was doing really well in her practice sessions but on the day she took the SAT’s in March, she was really sick (coming down with the flu) and did poorly.
We are thinking of having her retake the SAT in June and then, as before, repeat either the ACT or SAT in the Fall, depending on which one she scored the highest on.
Is there any reason NOT to do this?
Thank you so much for your question. What you’re planning to do is what a lot of families do choose to do. I, personally, don’t advise it for my students because I think it stretches out the testing timeline unnecessarily (lots of waiting for test dates to roll around and then scores to arrive) and because, as I mention in the article, some colleges require that you submit all scores. While having the flu is certainly an anomaly that you can explain to a college, you want to avoid too many scores that you may feel would require explanation.
Instead, I recommend that students choose the test they prefer based on at-home practice tests or the guidance I share here: higherscorestestprep.com/planners. Then, once they’ve selected the test for which they’re best suited, I advise that they prepare in some fashion and then take that test twice on back-to-back test dates. After that, they can assess if they want to take the test a 3rd time or, if they like, switch to the other exam and prepare a bit for it before giving it a couple of tries.
Taking both tests is by no means necessary. One solid score is absolutely sufficient and what I encourage families to focus on. That said, some students want to give them both a shot and certainly are welcome to do so if they’re so inclined.
So, to answer your question directly, I would advise against the testing schedule you laid out so that your daughter can take no-stakes tests to get her baseline and determine her path, really focus for a shorter period of time on achieving her target score, and be done with testing as quickly as possible.
I hope this helps! If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I’m here to help!
Cooper Myers says
I have taken the SAT three times: 1300 first time. 1370 second time. waiting for results on the third test. I am constantly improving my results through studying so would you recommend me to continue taking the SAT? Should I take it 4 times?
Good question! If I were in your position, I would weigh your next SAT score against your score goals and decide from there. All score goals should be based on the acceptance and merit aid numbers of your target colleges so, if you are in a competitive range, I would advise you to focus your attentions elsewhere – activities that are important to you or, if you’re a senior, on your applications and essays.
However, if you feel that your scores aren’t yet competitive enough for the school and scholarship opportunities you’re pursuing, then preparing a bit more and taking it a fourth time may serve you well.
At the end of the day, you’ll need to assess whether the time you’re investing to prepare is worth the rewards you are reaping in the score. You know the SAT well now so make the choice that will best serve you long term, bearing in mind that the SAT is just 1 aspect of your overall application.
Which score is applicable if I write two times subject tests with in a month duration . I mean I appear exam in October 7 and next exam November 2nd. Is it possible to get best if two tests??
Yes – for the subject exams, the ACT and the SAT, you are welcome to test multiple times and your strongest scores are generally used. That said, some schools will see all of your attempts so never take the exams without some preparation.
My favorite subject exam prep books can be found at higherscorestestprep.com/amazon.
Do you know if they will choose the highest score out of the six that you mentioned or they will take any score?
That depends on the individual colleges’ policies. Unfortunately, it’s so widely variable that the only way to know how schools consider multiple scores is to ask.
The good news is that some schools will super score your SAT scores – which means you can combine your highest math score with your highest verbal score to create a best overall score even if those individual scores took place on different test dates.
Again, this varies by college so please inquire with the schools you’re planning to apply to!
Good luck on your SAT!
– Lauren G.
I’m not sure what you mean by taking the SAT “back to back”? Do you mean take the main SAT test one month after another? If so, what is the reason for that? Or do you mean take the main test one month and then the subject exams right after that? Also, which subjects do you recommend to take for the subject tests?
Generally, yes – you’ll want to take it on the 2 closest test dates. Sometimes that’s 2 in 2 months; sometimes there’s a little more distance. Whatever is closest will work.
I recommend this to ensure that students can get in, get prepped, and get out of testing as quickly as possible. Students tend to put a lot of time between tests which ends up prolonging their testing “season.” If students prepare well for your first exam (which I highly recommend) and don’t take the second exam for months and months, often they’ll forget a lot of the great prep work they’ve done and will have to prepare all over again.
It’s a bit of a waste of time.
If, instead, students enter testing with focused intention and some preparation before the first exam, they often have a firm enough grasp on the test to assess how it went, do a small amount of brush up between the close test dates, and head into the second test with even more confidence than they did the first.
Does that make sense?
Regarding subject exams, that’s entirely dependent on the student’s course work, strengths & weaknesses, and what his or her particular colleges (or special programs) request or require. If you’d like to talk through that, I’m happy to help! Please feel free to shoot me an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 760-814-9655 if you’d like to chat!
Hope this helps!
– Lauren G.
I see. Thanks for clarifying. I understand what you mean. Thank you for your reply!
Edward Toderescu says
Let’s say I want to take a couple of the SAT subject tests. Given that they will be administered on that day, am I required to additionally take the SAT, or can I just take the subject tests?
Great question! On any test day (except the March test date when the SAT Subject Exams are not administered) you have one of two choices:
1. Take the full-length SAT
2. Take 1-3 SAT Subject Exams
In other words, you can’t take the full SAT and Subject Exams on the same test date.
This is why it’s important for students to have a full testing timeline laid out. Many students should take the subject exams at the end of the year (May & June) so that they can leverage their finals and AP studying and make it work twice as hard. If students haven’t yet taken the full-length SAT, this can create a calendaring conflict.
Thanks for asking! I hope this helps!
– Lauren G.
Hello, when you said “two back-to-back test dates”, do you mean that we should take a test one month, and then retake it the next? I am asking this because I have registered to take the SAT, but my school is making it mandatory to take the SAT in our school the following month. I’m not sure what to do. Should I cancel my registration or keep it?
I am so sorry for the delay in my reply. Your comment slipped under the radar as we were doing some updates on the site.
I would recommend you keep your registration. It will give you the best odds of getting your higher score by doing a little prep before the first test, assessing how you felt it went, and taking some time to brush up the concepts you think need attention before your second exam.
I hope this helps!
Ahmad hisham says
If i took the SAT test once and i got a good score , is it a must to do the test again?? I really need an answer
First of all, congratulations! If you got a score you’re proud of and you know that it’s within the range of accepted scores at the colleges you’re considering, you certainly don’t have to take it again.
Before you decide to be done with SAT testing for good, though, I would also take a look at the merit aid scholarships offered at your prospective colleges. This is usually listed on the financial aid or scholarship pages of the admissions section of the website.
Often there are minimum SAT or ACT scores that you’ll need to have achieved in order to qualify for aid. In doing this research, you may find that another 20 or 30 points could give you the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars in free tuition help. At that point, taking the SAT a second or third time may seem like a good idea. Or maybe you’re already in range and can officially be done and feel confident in your admissions and scholarship chances.
Either way, good luck with the next steps of your journey!
This is my first time taking the SAT,I’m usually taking the ACT and I passed everything on my ACT but my (Reading) so every time I take the ACT the only section that I need to pass is the (Reading). SO My question is when I take my SAT do I have to pass everything to pass the test?Or do I only need to worry about passing my Reading in order to get my high school diploma since I already passed everything else but my reading on the ACT.
As it pertains to college admissions, there is no pass or fail score on the ACT or SAT. However, it sounds like your school district may use these exams to determine your eligibility to graduate. If that’s the case, the answer to your question is going to be specific to your school district or state regulations. You’ll want to get in touch with your school counselor to determine the answer.
Good luck to you on your next exam!
1,How many time must a student take SAT to get into a collage?
2. Can international students take SAT?
3.What is the age to take SAT?
Im new to this system so it would be great if someone can explain this to me
I know the system is totally confusing. To answer your questions in order…
1. At schools that require scores, you simply need to take the test once. However, most students prepare for the SAT and then take the test multiple times in order to improve their scores as much as possible. You can take it as many times as you like; however, I would recommend taking it no more than 4 times. Ideally, 2-3 tests should be enough for you to get your higher SAT score.
2. Yes. There are international testing sites in many different countries. You’ll need to search for testing sites at sat.org.
3. Ideally students take the test and have scores they’re proud of by the end of their junior year. I would not recommend beginning testing before sophomore year. You can take the test in senior year as well; however, it’s important to make sure know the final test date you can take in your senior year. This is set by the colleges you’re applying to so do your research by looking at the colleges’ websites so you don’t end up taking a test so late that the school won’t consider it.
For more information on the US admissions system, I’d recommend my free resource – The College Checklist Podcast. You can learn more about every aspect of our college admissions system here: collegechecklistpodcast.com
This still doesn’t answer the question: How many times CAN you take the SAT?
For example, you can take the ACT a total of 12 times according to this website:
But there is no information on how many times you can take the SAT test.
Thanks for your comment! The answer to the question of how many times you can take the SAT is as stated at the top of the article: as many times as you want. However, only your most recent 6 scores stay on file at College Board.
I hope this helps answer your question!
We want to know if there is a limit
As it states at the beginning of the article, there is no limit. I just confirmed that fact with College Board once more. It seems that the policy will not change with the new SAT.
Hope this helps!