How Many Times Can and Should You Take the ACT or SAT? Part Two

Here is part two of Anthony James Green's guide to whether or not you should take the SAT/ACT multiple times.

Read Part One of this article to find out why Anthony-James Green doesn't think you should take the SAT just to see how well (or poorly) you perform.

4. Colleges don’t use SAT and ACT scores to let you in. They use them to reject you.

SAT and ACT scores aren’t a “qualifier.” They’re an “eliminator.” In other words, colleges don’t look at your test scores alongside the rest of your application and use these scores to evaluate your overall qualities as a person. They look at your scores before they look at the rest of your application as a time-saving mechanism. If you have strong scores (and grades), admissions officers will review the rest of your application and find out more about you (your extracurricular activities, essays, recommendations, etc.). If they’re not good enough, they’ll toss your application in the trash without taking a second look. Getting a 2400 won’t get you into Harvard. All that score promises is that they’ll definitely read your application. But getting a 1300 will almost definitely guarantee that you’ll get rejected from Harvard.

You can read more about this whole process in my new book, Why You Get Rejected. For now, just know this: the number of times you take your tests doesn’t matter nearly as much as the overall grades you get. If your scores aren’t high enough, you won’t get in. Period. Focus on getting the scores you need first. Worry about little details like the number of times you take your test later.

So you have your 1800 on your diagnostic tests. It’s time to take the real thing. What should you do?

5. Always register for at least two tests, and don’t worry if you need to take three.

I always have my students register for at least two exams. If they get the scores they’re looking for on the first try, awesome. They cancel their second and they’re done. But if they’re sick, or tired, or stressed, or they just don’t do as well as they’d hoped, they can go in, take the test a second time, and improve their scores. On the SAT in particular, super scoring alone often makes this very worth it (you’ll randomly get fluctuations in your scores for all three sections, and these usually benefit your sum total).

In rare cases, my students need to take three tests. So what? It’s fine. Scores first, considerations about how many times you took the test later.

Here’s an analogy: taking the test a few too many times is like dating someone with an incredible body, but who you know spends a bit too much time in the gym. Maybe it’s a bit weird that they go to the gym three times a day … but still, that body

If you need to take the SAT three times to get the scores you need, do it. Maybe it’s a bit weird that you took it three times … but still, those scores

Just remember:

  • Figure out what scores you need.
  • Use practice tests, rather than real tests, to figure out where you stand.
  • Prep until you hit your target.
  • Don’t take the real thing until you’re scoring in the range of your target.
  • Then, take it as many times as you need to in order to hit your target.

If you follow this process, you’ll never need to take these tests more than three times (usually just once, and often just twice, but three in your worst case scenario). By testing on your own, you won’t be randomly racking up official tests for no reason, and by hitting your goals before you test, you’ll be ensuring that you hit the mark.

If you’ve already taken the SAT seven times, and your scores aren’t high enough, prep more and take it again. You’ve already taken it a lot; at this point, you might as well just get the scores you need!

Don’t forget to check Test Prep Authority, for more free guides and advice on the SAT / ACT.

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