When Should You Stop Taking SATs?

This is the third (and last) in a series of articles that began with The College Hunt and How Many Times Should You Take the SAT? If you have done your homework, and researched the polices of the colleges to which you plan to apply, you have presumably worked out the appropriate number of SATs for you to take.

But what if you score really high, and you still have one or more exam dates left?

That’s what this article is about – whether you should modify your initial plans.

An example of sleeping.

Remember, once you have already prepared for an SAT, the time you need to “get back in shape” for another test is relatively small. So, if you have any reasonable expectation of improving, you should probably go ahead and take another test.

Of course, if you are applying to colleges that reject Score Choice (i.e. you are required to send scores from all exams that you take), you might actually hurt your chances of admission or scholarship if your scores go down. If you have prepared well, and your practice scores are around 600 on Reading and Math (suppose your colleges don’t look at the Writing score), and you break 650 on both, then you are one of those rare students who shouldn’t repeat.

If you’ve read other articles in this blog, you know that I often give advice that differs from that of other teachers and counselors, but that I do my utmost to back up that advice with evidence and common sense. Many advisors take what I call a “moralistic” approach, and tell you to do “what seems right.” While I agree that it doesn’t seem right for a student to have to take a test four or more times, the current rules may make that your best practical option.

It’s also easy to rationalize that you shouldn’t take so many tests, since it is easier not to. But you want to look at the big picture here, and getting into a better school, or being awarded more financial aid, is certainly worth a few hours of your time.

SAT scores are not completely accurate. Some students will find that their scores drift by a couple of hundred points between exams. So if you get lucky and ace an SAT, consider stopping. Otherwise, take a break, and then go back to work.

In general, my best advice is: if you’re in doubt, it’s probably better to keep taking SATs.

Obviously, I can’t go into every detail that will impact your decision here. Many factors are involved, so if you’re still in doubt, I urge you to consult with a trustworthy counselor. I’m also happy to answer your questions – just go to the About page and ask away.


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