Taking the Test One Last Time

October 1, 2019

Should I take it one last time?

As senior year begins, students might wonder if they should take the SAT or ACT one last time. Because taking the test again means taking time away from school work and college applications, there are some important things to consider before signing up. Would a few extra points move you into the middle 50th percent for your school of choice? Would a few extra points give you the peace of mind that your SAT or ACT score isn’t what makes or breaks you?

Ok, I want to take it again… when should I?

You should make a list of every school you are applying to and the deadline you’ll need to meet. Most schools’ early action or early decision deadlines will be November 1st or November 15th. Most schools’ regular decision deadlines will be January 1st or January 15th. As a general rule, follow the instructions below:

  • If you are applying early decision or early action with a November 1 or 15 deadline, the October SAT/ACT is your last chance. If you take a November test, you will need to rush your scores. 
  • If you are applying regular decision with a January deadline, the December SAT/ACT is your last chance.
What does it mean to “rush” scores?

Keep in mind that scores take about 3 weeks to come in and an additional 5-6 weeks to be sent to colleges once requested. So if you plan to take a late test, you will need to “rush” your scores to beat this 5-6 week timeline. Scores already posted on a student’s account can be “rushed,” meaning they will arrive to colleges in 2 business days. Rush reporting costs $31. 

What about the test day request form?

If you use the test day request form (a form you fill out during the SAT that provides you with four free score reports that go directly to colleges), colleges will receive your scores the day before your score gets posted to your account. This means that colleges will know how you did before you do. As such, there is some inherent risk in using this form, but it’s free, and most colleges only care about your highest score.

Also important to note: Just because a college has received your score, doesn’t mean it’s been reviewed and connected to your application. So, the earlier the better when it comes to sending test reports. 

What does all this mean for college admissions?

If you plan to take the November exam and want to apply early action or early decision, you can indicate that on your application. However, this might cause a school to defer you as they wait for additional scores. If you choose not to indicate your future test registration, the college will be forced to evaluate your file as is. Each path has its own risks. If your current score puts you below average for a specific school, you’re probably best off indicating your future test registration. If your current score is good enough for that particular school, then you might not want to disclose your future registration.

You should consider the reality that your score might not improve. While it might be a waste of time and energy to sit for the exam again without improvement, the good news is that a lower score will not likely affect your college decisions. Most colleges only look at your highest score. Even colleges that require students to send all scores do not usually focus on lower scores.

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