Reaching for Better: How Many Times Can You Retake the SAT

June 23, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Reaching for Better: How Many Times Can You Retake the SAT

The SAT – three little letters that can spark a flurry of emotions for high school students across the globe. It’s a standardized test that often feels anything but standard, given the weight it can hold in college admissions decisions. Students pore over practice tests and dedicate hours to honing their reading, writing, and math skills to achieve an SAT score that reflects their abilities and potential. Yet, sometimes, the results don’t align with the effort or the expectation. In these moments, the prospect of retaking the SAT emerges. Welcome to our comprehensive guide, “Reaching for Better: How Many Times Can You Retake the SAT?” This question is swirling around in the minds of many test-takers who feel their initial score fell short of their potential.

The good news is, retaking the SAT is not just possible; it can also serve as a strategic move in your college admission journey. However, the notion of retaking the SAT often leads to another question: how many times can you retake the SAT?

This blog post aims to answer that query and delve into the intricacies of retaking the SAT. So, whether you’re a first-time test-taker looking ahead or a seasoned veteran contemplating another round, this guide is for you.

Understanding the SAT

Before we plunge into the depths of retaking the SAT, it’s crucial to clearly understand the test itself. The SAT, administered by the College Board, is a standardized test used primarily for undergraduate admissions in the United States. Its purpose?

To assess a student’s readiness for college by testing their reading, writing, and math skills. This score serves as a standardized measure, allowing colleges to compare applicants from different schools, states, or even countries.

Three students using a laptop in a table.

Why is the SAT so important? In simple terms, it’s one of the key factors colleges consider during admissions. Alongside your high school GPA, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, and personal essays, your SAT score provides colleges with insight into your academic potential. While it doesn’t define your worth as a student, a solid SAT score can boost your chances of acceptance into your dream college.

Now, let’s demystify the SAT scoring system. The SAT is split into two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW) and Math. Each section is scored on a scale from 200 to 800, making the highest possible score 1600.

You’ll also receive a subscore for specific areas within these sections, providing more granular insights into your performance. Remember, there’s no penalty for wrong answers, so it’s always worth taking a calculated guess instead of leaving a question blank.

Understanding this scoring system is key to interpreting your SAT results and knowing where you stand. But what if you’re not satisfied with your score? This is where the possibility of retaking the SAT comes into play.

Can You Retake the SAT?

So, you’ve received your SAT scores, and they’re not what you anticipated. Perhaps you were battling nerves, or a lack of preparation led to a performance that didn’t mirror your academic potential. Here comes the golden question: Can you retake the SAT? The answer, thankfully, is a resounding yes. Retaking the SAT is possible and often encouraged for students who believe they can improve their scores.

Let’s understand the College Board’s policy on retaking the SAT. The College Board allows students to take the SAT as often as they want. There are no official restrictions on the number of retakes. However, they recommend that students take the SAT twice, as most students tend to improve their scores the second time. The SAT is offered seven times a year in most countries, which means students can strategically plan their retakes.

Moreover, through a process called “Score Choice,” the College Board allows you to choose which SAT scores you send to colleges. If you take the SAT multiple times, you can select your highest scores from each section across test dates to send to colleges. This allows students to showcase their best performance to the admissions officers.

Retaking the SAT offers a valuable opportunity to improve your score and, consequently, your college admission chances. However, several factors must be considered before you sign up for the next test date.

How Many Times Can You Retake the SAT?

Given that you can retake the SAT, another question surfaces: How many times can you retake the SAT? As per the College Board’s policy, there’s technically no limit on how many times a student can sit for the test. You can retake the SAT as many times as you feel necessary to achieve your desired score.

However, it’s crucial to remember that simply retaking the test repeatedly without a strategic plan might not yield the results you’re aiming for. Also, consider the financial and time investment each test requires. The SAT is not just about the test day; it’s about the hours of preparation leading up to it. This is where a thoughtful approach comes in handy.

Most experts suggest that students limit their test-taking to three times. Research indicates that, after the third attempt, score improvements are usually minimal. There are exceptions, but this tends to be the trend.

Moreover, some colleges may frown upon excessive retakes as it might indicate indecisiveness or a lack of preparation. Students should check with individual colleges to understand their policies on SAT retakes.

It’s also worth noting that the SAT cannot be taken in quick succession. While the College Board offers the SAT seven times a year, you must register for each test date in advance and ensure you’re not violating any of their test policies.

Young woman walking in the stairs of a building.

The question of how many times you can retake the SAT comes with a fair share of considerations. It’s not merely about the number; it’s about making each attempt count.

The Pros and Cons of Retaking the SAT

While improving your SAT scores can be alluring, weighing the pros and cons before signing up for a retake is important. Here’s what you need to know.

On the pro side, retaking the SAT can provide a valuable opportunity to improve your scores. Many students wonder, “Can you retake the SAT?” The answer is yes, and it’s a chance to enhance your performance.

With additional study time, targeted practice, and the experience of taking the test once, many students find that their scores increase on subsequent attempts. This can be particularly true if you didn’t have much time to prepare for your first attempt or if test-day nerves significantly affected your performance.

Moreover, retaking the SAT can demonstrate to colleges your determination and perseverance. It shows you’re willing to put in extra effort to achieve your goals. Also, familiarity with the test format and environment can help reduce anxiety and improve performance.

On the flip side, there are potential drawbacks to consider. The SAT is not just a two to four-hour test. It represents days and weeks of preparation. Regular school work, extracurricular activities, and college application deadlines don’t pause while you prepare for a retake. This could lead to ‘test fatigue,’ where your overall performance may suffer due to the mental and physical strain of balancing test preparation with other responsibilities.

There are financial implications to consider as well. Each SAT registration comes with a fee, which can add up if you take the test multiple times. There’s also the risk that your scores might not improve significantly or could even drop.

Lastly, overemphasizing the SAT could shift focus away from other crucial aspects of your college application, such as your GPA, extracurricular involvement, and personal essays.

In conclusion, the decision to retake the SAT should not be taken lightly. It requires a careful analysis of your previous performance, your potential for improvement, and the time and resources you’re willing and able to invest.

Strategies for Retaking the SAT

Since you better understand how you can retake the SAT, and If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to retake the SAT, it’s crucial to have a strategic plan in place to make the most of your subsequent attempt. Here are some strategies to consider.

First, consider the timing of your retake. The College Board offers the SAT seven times yearly: in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. Your choice of when to retake the SAT should be informed by several factors, including your school schedule, the time needed for preparation, and application deadlines for the colleges you’re interested in.

If you’re a junior and didn’t get the score you wanted on the spring SAT, you might consider retaking the test in the fall of your senior year. This allows ample time over the summer for focused study.

Regarding how often to retake the SAT, it’s generally recommended not to take it more than three times. As mentioned earlier, the law of diminishing returns tends to kick in after the third attempt and significant score improvements become less likely.

As for preparation strategies, it’s crucial not just to repeat the same methods you used for your initial test. Analyze your previous performance to identify areas of strength and weakness. Your SAT Score Report provides a detailed performance breakdown in each test section. Use this feedback to focus your study time on areas needing improvement.

College councillor talking to a student.

Consider varying your study resources. If you previously self-studied using books, consider incorporating online resources such as Khan Academy, which offers free, personalized SAT prep based on your test results. Alternatively, you might find that a prep course or a tutor could provide structured guidance.

Practice tests are an invaluable tool in your SAT retake strategy. They provide a realistic snapshot of where you stand and help you become more familiar with the test format and time constraints. Remember, the goal is not just to understand the test material but to become proficient at taking the test.

In conclusion, retaking the SAT should involve reassessing your previous approach, targeted preparation, and a comprehensive understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.


As we come to the end of our exploration of whether you can retake the SAT, it’s clear that the decision to retake the SAT is a personal one, multifaceted and reliant on individual circumstances.

We’ve learned that you can retake the SAT, and many students do. The College Board allows students to retake the test as often as they want. But the question isn’t so much “Can you?” as “Should you?”

The answer depends on a variety of factors. A retake has clear advantages, such as the opportunity to increase your scores, gain more test experience, and show colleges your commitment to improving. However, there are potential drawbacks like test fatigue, financial considerations, and the risk that your score might not substantially improve.

Group of students talking in a room.

If you choose to retake the SAT, it’s important to approach your preparation strategically. Assess your previous performance to identify areas for improvement, incorporate different study resources, and take practice tests to become more comfortable with the test format.

In conclusion, retaking the SAT is not a decision to be made lightly. Consider your circumstances, academic goals, and level of preparedness. Speak with your school counselor, discuss with your parents, and do your research.

Remember, the SAT is just one piece of the college admissions puzzle. Your grades, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, and personal essays also significantly shape your college application.

Here’s to making informed decisions and striving for success on your path to college and beyond!

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.


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