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! : )