SAT Tip of the Week: Should You Retake the Test?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullA lot of students, after they have gotten their first score, feel unsure whether or not they should take the SAT again.  There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to endeavor to conquer the four hour test after it has already been battled, but here are a few things to consider when deciding what to do.

1.  Know the Scores You Want

As top level students, many of you will not wish to settle for anything less than the highest possible score on the SAT. As a tutor, I believe that any student, with some time and discipline, can improve their score on the SAT (if I didn’t think that, I would be remiss in pursuing this career), but this is only one aspect of the college admissions process.  If a student’s score falls squarely within the score range of his or her desired school, it may not be the best use of time to work for many more hours to raise that score to the upper limit of the admission range.

If a student is already a competitive candidate for his or her school of choice, it may be that a higher SAT score will only marginally affect the chances of admission. Perhaps that time would be better used focusing on other aspects of school or on the application itself (don’t forget to take some time to relax as well!).  If on the other hand, a student’s scores are on the low side for a school, it may be wise to give the SAT another shot.  The big mistake to avoid in taking the SAT again is to assume that simply taking the test again will increase your score.

2.  Understand Where You Are in Your Preparation

The SAT is a skills test; because of this, more preparation and an understanding of the skills necessary for success on the SAT translate DIRECTLY into a higher score.  With that said, a high score on the SAT can sometimes mean a lower increase in score in relation to the time put in.  Many students can improve scores dramatically if they have not put much time into studying for the SAT their first go around, but there often comes a point where students plateau in their scoring.

This does not mean the students cannot improve, but it does mean the students will have to work that much harder for an incremental increase in their scores. For this reason, it is an especially good idea to take the SAT again if the student put little preparation into the test the first time around.

3.  If Taking the Test Again, Work that Much Harder

It may seem a bit reductive to simply state “work harder” as a method of improving scores, but schools are looking to see improvements in SAT scores when the test is taken multiple times so simply taking the SAT again with the hope of improvement is not the most prudent move.  Figure out EXACTLY what was hard the first time and focus on that.

Were main idea problems difficult in the reading section? Were pronouns tough in the writing section? Was it difficult to find the hidden concepts in the later math problems? Figure out what the problem areas are and focus on them. Make sure to test your progress as you go to see if you are making improvements.  The biggest mistake to be made in taking the test again is to assume that simply retaking the test will improve scores.

The decision of whether or not to take the SAT can be difficult, but the right road can be made clearer by examining where you are coming from, and where you plan to go.  If your score is what you need for entrance into the school of your choice, perhaps it is not worth the time and energy of retaking the test.  If, however, you feel like you need a higher score, make sure to specifically work toward improving in areas that were difficult so that you show progress in your SAT scoring.  Good luck test takers!

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David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.