How Many Times Can You Take The SAT?

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How many times can you take the SAT? Students can take it as many times as they want, but most students take it twice. Find out when it's a good idea to take it again, how many times is too many, and tips on getting a better score.

[Featured Image] A woman studies for the SAT exam on her laptop.

Students can take the SAT as many times as they want; however, there are typically only seven test dates throughout the year. Most students take the exam twice, once at the end of their junior year and again at the beginning of their senior year. 

About 1.5 million students in the Class of 2021 took the SATs at least once, according to a report from the College Board [1]. That’s about 700,000 fewer than the year previous, which is likely due to the closure of testing centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While fewer students may have taken the test recently, it remains the most widely used college admission test in the nation. Students work hard to prepare for it, too. It’s common to start studying one to six months in advance and set aside about 10 to 20 hours a week for preparation before sitting for the exam.  

Reasons to take the SATs more than once

With such a time-consuming exam, you might wonder why taking such a test more than once is beneficial. Experts say these are the most common reasons to retake the SAT:

Improve your score.

One of the biggest reasons students retake the exam is to increase their score. Research shows 55 percent of high school juniors improved their scores when they retook the test as a senior [2]. On average, scores went up by 55 points, and 4 percent of students increased their score by 100 points or more, according to Manhattan Review. 

Work on problem areas.

After taking the SAT once, you may know what to expect and which portions were more difficult. As a result, you can work on those problem areas and improve your scores in certain sections. If, for example, you score low in mathematics, you can spend more time studying the exam’s math principles. This kind of strategic studying is common among students who want to see a bump in their score. 

You have an idea of what to expect.

Taking a college entrance exam comes with its own set of nerves, and with one test complete, you have an idea of what to expect. Expectations are now set, letting you manage nerves and focus on the questions. 

You hopefully have more knowledge.

As mentioned, students often first take the SAT following their junior year. However, retaking the exam later on gives you more time in the classroom to grow your knowledge. New math concepts and English principles that are introduced during your senior year could help you improve your scores. 

Qualify for financial aid.

If you retake the SAT and get a higher score, it may provide more financial aid opportunities. Certain loans, grants, or tuition-reduction programs may have a required SAT score associated with them. 

Before taking the exam, it’s a good idea to explore financial aid opportunities to help set a target score. 

The University of Mississippi, for example, guarantees minimum scholarship awards to students with an SAT score of 1130-1150 [3]. Students who meet this threshold receive $1,000 a year in aid. If the student also has a GPA of 3.5 or higher, scholarship money increases to $3,000 a year. 

Generally, the higher the SAT score, the more scholarship money is available. The highest amount awarded by the University of Mississippi is $12,718 a year to students with an SAT score of 1450+ and a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

How many tests is too many?

While you can take the SAT as many times as you’d like, is there a suggested cut-off?

Even though test-taking frequency is up to each student, experts at PrepScholar say students shouldn’t take the exam more than six times [4]. Taking it too many times may indicate to a school that you’re not preparing as well as you should. 

Of course, there’s a flip side too. If you only take the exam once, it could indicate your unwillingness to try again. Since most students do improve their scores on the second try, it makes the most sense to take the exam twice. 

Are all SAT scores sent to a school or can you pick the highest?

Many schools adhere to a principle called Score Choice, which means a student can choose which test scores are sent to a school. You can’t pick and choose section scores from two different tests though. For example, you can’t use the math score from your first test and the writing and language score from your second test. Instead, you can opt to send the complete results of test one or test two. 

There are certain schools that do require all SAT scores to be sent over, so you should research the requirements of your target school. 

What’s the average SAT score needed to get into college?  

Most colleges do set a required SAT score for incoming freshmen, so you should research your desired school’s requirements. Most students will apply to a variety of different schools, which means the SAT scores will range. Consider striving to meet or exceed the highest score required.

As you might expect, Ivy League schools have higher requirements. For students looking to get into the top 25 schools in the nation, SAT scores need to be between 1415 and 1510, depending on the school, according to PrepScholar [5]. Other schools tend to have minimum score standards that are a bit lower. A list of 76 popular colleges shows the average SAT score required ranges between 1210 and 1485. 

Meanwhile, the average test score for students in the Class of 2020 was 1051, according to US News [6]. 

Read more: What Is a Good SAT Score? Finding Your Goal Score

Tips for retaking the SAT

For those looking to repeat their SAT exam, here are a few strategic study tips: 

Get back to studying. 

After taking such a big exam, you might be inclined to take some time off before jumping back into studying. However, the best plan is to return to your studies right after taking the exam because it’ll help keep the information fresh and give you the chance to build on your foundation. 

Focus on certain sections.

After taking the exam, you’ll get your results. Look at the scores by section such as: Reading, Writing and Language, Math, and an optional Essay. You can ask yourself, which section did you score the lowest in and put more effort into where you want to see the most improvement. 

Take practice exams. 

Besides optimizing what you study, use should also improve how you study. Go over your review materials, but remember to take practice exams, which are one of the best tools you can use to prepare for a retake. 

Set a study schedule.

Take a moment to make a study schedule that takes you from the present day to the date of the exam. The schedule will help you stay accountable and keep you from cramming for the test. Trying to improve SAT scores by studying a day or two before the test usually won’t be as effective as working at it in small pieces over time. 

Consider a study group.

How are you preparing for the exam? If you’re working alone, it might be beneficial to find a study group or consider taking SAT prep classes that are specifically designed to improve test scores. 

Next steps

Taking the SAT is just one piece of the college application process. For further insight, consider taking a free online course, How to Apply for College, offered by the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera. During the course, you’ll learn how to navigate each stage of the application process.

Learn more about earning your exam-optional bachelor's degree online from a leading university on Coursera.

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Article sources

1. Inside Higher Ed. “700,000 Fewer Took the SAT, https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2021/09/20/sat-annual-report-says-those-who-took-test-fell-700000.” Accessed March 1, 2022.

2. Manhattan Review. “Retaking the SAT, https://www.manhattanreview.com/sat-retaking/#:~:text=The%20College%20Board%20reports%20that,of%20100%20points%20or%20more.” Accessed March 1, 2022.

3. University of Mississippi. “Freshman Scholarships Guide 2021-2022, https://admissions.olemiss.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/245/2021/02/Accessible_Freshman-Scholarships-Guide-2021-2022.pdf.” Accessed March 1, 2022.

4. PrepScholar. “Expert Guide: How Many Times Should You Take the SAT, https://blog.prepscholar.com/how-many-times-should-you-take-the-sat.” Accessed March 1, 2022. 

5. PrepScholar. “What Are Good SAT Scores for Colleges? 101 Schools + Advice, https://blog.prepscholar.com/sat-scores-for-colleges.” Accessed March 1, 2022. 

6. US News. “What’s a Good SAT Score?, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/understand-whats-a-good-sat-score-for-college-admissions.” Accessed March 1, 2022.

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