“When should I stop retaking the SAT?” It’s a question asked by many college-obsessed high school students, and a question unable to be definitively answered by, well, everyone.
When I first took the SAT, I received a 2060 overall score. The next time, I got a 2130; and finally, I scored a 2190. At that point, I had taken the test three times and scored in the 700s for all three subsections. I was happy and content with my scores, but I couldn’t help to wonder: did the 60 point difference between my second and third score matter at all in the game of college admissions? Did the admissions officer even give my SAT score a second look after he or she saw that I was in the median range for that given school?
In an attempt to answer these questions once and for all, I contacted admissions officers at schools ranging from Williams and Wesleyan to UChicago. Although incredibly ambiguous, each admissions team gave the same answer – “such-and-such-school is committed to a holistic review of applications,” highlighting that although required and considered, standardized test scores do not make or break an application.
With this vague, though useful information in mind, it seems as if those 60 points might not have been worth the extra $50 paid to the “non-profit” CollegeBoard or the 5 hours wasted on a Saturday morning. Nonetheless, I do recommend the following rules of thumb when weighing your standardized testing options (to be taken lightly of course):
- Don’t take the test more than three times. If it takes you more than three tries to “reach your goal,” then your goal might be a little unrealistic. It simply isn’t worth the time or money.
- Make sure your application is well rounded. You might have a really strong GPA, and you might really want that 2400. However, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that a strong set of extracurricular activities and some passionate essays will outweigh a perfect SAT score any day of the week.
- Try your luck with the ACT. One of my biggest regrets was not taking the ACT. The SAT and ACT are completely different tests. I had friends score terribly on one and wonderfully on the other. The vast majority of schools accept both tests these days, so there is no harm in taking a shot at both of them.
- Do not be a perfectionist. You have a 2380. Stop. Unless it’s just for your own personal “bragging rights,” (which if you’re bragging over your SAT score, I kindly ask you to reevaluate your life and your moral compass), then there is no use in retaking. Once you’re into the 99th percentile, college admissions officers aren’t going to care anymore. Once again, there are plenty of 2400ers who don’t get in due to poor activities and poorer essays.
- Keep in mind your subject tests. More and more schools are requiring you to send in SAT Subject Test scores along with your SAT scores. Too many people forget about these hour-long tests until the last minute. Find out which ones you take and when you want to take them early – so you aren’t pulling your hair out during your senior fall.
I wish the admissions officers whom I contacted weren’t sworn to complete ambiguity when answering questions about their review process. I’ll still be looking for that definitive answer – is there really a difference between a 2130 and a 2190? Unfortunately, the rest of the college admissions world and I will probably never know. We do know, however, that test scores do not make or break an applicant, that many schools are slowly veering away from the heavily-weighted use of standardized tests, and that these tests will never be able to illustrate an applicant’s character, creativity, ambition, or adaptability. So, dear applicant, don’t worry about that “easy” math question you missed. Just keep on keeping on, make sure your application is well-rounded, and stop stressing about those extra 50 points you oh so desperately wanted on the SATs. This test is not worth eight retakes.