High school students around the United States who are eager to go to college in the fall after graduation will need to take either the SAT or the ACT in order to apply to their prospective schools. The scores from one of these two standardized tests (or both) will be included in your college application, and college admissions staff at your prospective schools will use these scores to help determine whether or not you'll be admitted. Of course, they will look at other factors, but your SAT scores are still very important.
Therefore, students put a lot of time into studying and preparing for a test like the SAT in order to ensure they get a good score. Best of all, if you don't get the score you want the first time around, you can take the test again. Instead of submitting your scores from just one of those tests, some schools also take your "SAT superscore." If you apply to a school that has this specific type of SAT scoring policy, it can greatly improve your chances of getting into the college you want because your composite SAT score will be that much higher.
An SAT Superscore is when colleges take the best-scoring sections from each SAT test you've taken. Therefore, if you take the SAT more than once, the colleges that do SAT superscoring will only consider your highest score from each individual section, even if those sections come from two different tests.
What Is an SAT Superscore?
Many students take the SAT more than once in order to improve in areas that they may have not done well in the first time around. This gives students an opportunity to increase their score and also get familiar with how to manage their time better while taking the test the second or third time.
But what happens if you retake the SAT, and do better on one section but worse on the other? For example, you improved your score in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (EBRW), but you actually scored lower on the Math section than you did the first time you took the test? You might regret having taken the test twice.
This is exactly why SAT superscoring exists. SAT superscoring is when colleges use your best section-level scores even if they were from different tests, according to CollegeBoard.com. If the colleges you're thinking of applying to do SAT superscoring, then you have a lot less to worry about, because your highest composite score won't be based off one test, but the sections you did best in across multiple test dates.
While SAT superscoring seems very advantageous for the test-taker, you might be wondering why colleges would even have an SAT scoring policy like this. Wouldn't colleges want to admit applicants that do well on the SAT the first time around? Or wouldn't they at least want applicants that improve in both the Math and the EBWR the second time the student takes the SAT?
SAT superscoring is beneficial to colleges as well, as it gives colleges an opportunity to improve their ranking, according to PrepScholar. SAT superscoring will help the college showcase the highest possible SAT averages among their applications, which will boost the college's credentials and make that school more competitive overall.
An Example of an SAT Superscore
The SAT has several complicated aspects to it, especially when it comes to understanding your test scores when it comes time to apply college. It seems that there are many rules and exceptions to those rules, and that these rules can differ dramatically depending on which college you are applying to. Therefore, for better clarification, it's helpful to see some examples about what it means for you when your prospective colleges uses SAT superscoring.
Imagine that the first time you take the SAT, you score a 750 on the math section and a 640 on the EBRW. With a composite score of 1,390, these scores aren't too bad already. But if the colleges you're applying to would like their applicants to have a higher score, then you'll likely take the SAT again in order to get it a little bit higher. The next time you take the SAT, you will probably focus on improving your score in the EBRW section since that's the section in which you had the lowest score.
Soon enough, it will come time to take the SAT again. You have spent a lot of time preparing for the EBRW section and perhaps neglected studying or reviewing for the Math section since you were quite satisfied with your score the first time. But when the the test is finished, you discover that you were successful in improving your EBRW score from a 640 to 720, but your math score is now actually lower than it was the first time you took the test at a 690.
Even though your composite score would be higher than the first time around, at a 1,410, you might be kicking yourself that your Math score actually dropped. Luckily, this is where SAT superscoring is extremely helpful. The colleges that you're applying to that have an SAT superscoring policy would take your highest math score, a 750, and your highest EBRW score, a 720, to give you a composite score of 1,470.
SAT Superscore vs. Score Choice
While many students might not be so familiar with SAT superscoring, they may have heard of "Score Choice." Score Choice is when colleges allow you to send your highest composite score from one test date. For example, if you took the SAT three times, according to Powerscore.com, you can choose to send all of those score results to your prospective colleges or just the scores from the one test you scored highest on.
Score Choice is thus different than SAT superscoring. Whereas Score Choice allows you to submit your highest composite score from one whole test, SAT superscoring allows you to take your best score from one section on one test day, and your best score from another section on another test date, and combine them to give you a higher composite score. The school you're applying to will then use this score to consider your application.
While both of these scoring methods have their advantages, it's easy to see why SAT superscoring would be much more beneficial than Score Choice. Score Choice, unlike SAT superscoring, has it's downsides because it doesn't allow you to add up scores from each section as SAT superscoring does.
Additionally, while Score Choice is a good idea in theory, it can actually end up hurting students who take the test too many times. This is because they might come to learn that the schools actually require their applicants to submit the scores from all their tests, in which case, the school will also see that the student may have struggled several times before getting their desired score. To avoid this, be sure to check the schools you're planning on applying to and see what their SAT scoring policy is.
Colleges That Superscore the SAT
Before taking the SAT the second time, it's a good idea to know which of your prospective colleges use SAT superscoring. For the most accurate answers, it's best to look at each college's website individually. However, there's already a list of popular schools that superscore the SAT, according to PrepScholar:
- Boston College
- Boston University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Johns Hopkins
- Notre Dame
- University of Chicago
- University of Miami
- University of North Carolina
- University of Southern California
- University of Virginia
- Virginia Tech
Again, it's important to read up on the individual policies at each of these schools. Some of these schools might do a combination of SAT superscoring and Score Choice. Or they might be flexible with SAT superscoring and Score Choice but still prefer to see all of your scores. Take all of this into consideration when it comes time to begin preparing for the SAT.
How Many Times Should You Take the SAT?
If you're wondering how many times you should take the SAT, it depends. Colleges don't necessarily tell you how many times you should or shouldn't take the SAT, yet most students will take it more than once. The biggest reason for this is because it gives students a chance to improve their score. But it can also show colleges that you are "demonstrating perseverance" and "showing your growth," according to CollegeBoard.
The SAT is given seven times a year, according to CollegeBoard. The test is given in August, October, November, December, March, May and June. Most students will take the SAT for the first time in the spring semester of their junior year of high school, perhaps in March or May, and then again in the fall of their senior year, perhaps in October, before colleges have their application deadlines.
Things to Consider About SAT Superscoring
SAT superscoring is a great way to arbitrage your test-taking strategies and skills in order help improve your chances of getting into the college you want. That being said, all students should aim to do well on their SAT the first time they take it, so they wouldn't necessarily have to take it again.
It's important to look into the different schools you're planning on applying to, and see what the average SAT score is among their applicants. This is so you can determine your target SAT score. Additionally, you should also look into what those schools' policies are, for instance, whether or not they do SAT superscoring, Score Choice or something else.
By knowing this information beforehand, there won't be any surprises when it comes time to take the test and send your scores to your prospective schools. Before your test date approaches, log into your CollegeBoard account to make changes to how your score will be reported to colleges, according to Princeton Review.
Lastly, remember that even though your SAT scores are a necessary part of your college application, they're not the only thing that college admissions look at. College admissions also take into consideration your GPA, your transcripts, the level of classes you took in high school, your involvement in extracurricular activities and community service as well as your personal statement. Therefore, while the SAT is certainly important, you also need to spend time on strengthening the quality of your college application overall.