In any ordinary school year, the graduating class would be finishing up their college applications and eyeing the Christmas break. As we are all too aware of, however, 2020 is no normal year.
Instead of succumbing to the usual case of senioritis, the members of the class of 2021 are scrambling to retake their SAT exams.
A Different Kind of Year
It’s not only daily school schedules that have been disrupted in this extraordinary year. The normal testing calendar as well, with the SATs, ACTs, and Advanced Placement exams have all been affected by restrictions. The May SAT was wiped out altogether, while the March, June, and August offerings were frequently canceled by individual testing centers. Students that normally would have taken the test at least once by the end of their junior years found themselves prepping during the summer months in hopes of taking the SAT early in their senior years.
While the College Board did compensate somewhat by offering an additional September test date, many of this year’s seniors were taking the test for the first time in the fall. Rather than taking the SAT one last time before focusing on college applications, they were thinking about retaking the test.
Thankfully, colleges have pushed back their application deadlines in consideration of current circumstances. With more seniors taking the test in the fall, the plans of juniors have also been disturbed. We can expect more disruption next year, as Covid shows no signs of easing up.
If you are part of the class of 2020 (or 2021), you may be wondering whether you should retake the SAT and, if so, what you should do to prepare.
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Why Would Someone Retake the SAT?
Can you retake the SAT? Absolutely!
The College Board understands that a multitude of factors are at play when it comes to test-taking, so multiple retakes are permitted. Maybe you weren’t feeling well the day of the test, or you just couldn’t focus for whatever reason. If you didn’t get that perfect SAT score the first time you take the test, there’s no need to worry: the vast majority of colleges accept your Superscore, which is the composite score of your best Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score and your best Math score.
Should I retake the SAT?
There’s really no risk in taking the test again—or even again and again, if possible.
How many times can you take the SAT? You are permitted to take the test more than once—up to 12 times, if you want! When colleges refer to the average SAT scores for applicants, they are almost always referring to Superscores—so don’t hesitate to take advantage of retakes.
Maybe you ran out time on the SAT the first time you took it, or perhaps you have some health problems that hindered your performance. Well, if you have been diagnosed with a learning disability and are receiving extra time on tests in school, then you should be able to obtain the same accommodation on the SAT.
And if you need specific accommodations due to physical disability—such as additional bathroom breaks—the makers of the SAT can help you out there as well. The College Board understands that disabilities of all kinds are a real thing for many students, so contact them and ask for help. Just make sure you have the necessary documentation of the diagnosis and the accommodations you are currently receiving.
What’s A “Good” Score to Aim For On An SAT Retake?
To help set a reasonable goal and challenge yourself to make the best of your additional time to reach it, you should revisit the websites of the colleges you’re considering in order to establish what range that applicants’ SAT scores are expected to fall into.
Keep in mind as well that some universities are suspending SAT requirements in light of how Covid-19 has messed with the normal education process this year.
What is a good SAT score?
Rather than thinking of your score as a fraction of all possible points, you should look at your percentile—i.e., what percent of test-takers scored lower than you.
You may think you failed the SAT because your score seemed low, but keep in mind that it’s not a percentage: rather, it’s relative to the average of all the scorers. If you’re in the 80th percentile or above, you’re doing great—90th and above is fantastic!
Can you fail the SAT?
No, not in the way you think of “failing” in school.
Your composite score ranges somewhere from a minimum SAT score of 400 and a maximum of 1600, with both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score and the Math score comprising 200-800 points of the overall score. If you refer to your College Board score sheet, you’ll notice a benchmark score for each portion of the test: if your score falls below that, then you scored lower than 50% of the test-takers.
What about the essay section?
If you took the optional SAT Essay the last time around, it’s best that you just skip it this time. Even the most elite schools have dropped the essay as a requirement for admission, so it’s just not worth the hassle to devote time to improving your score.
Instead, focus on raising your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score and your Math score. SAT scoring for the regular test is unaffected by your essay scores.
Remember, though, that if you register for the test without the essay, you will most likely be given a fifth section to complete. It’s a 25-minute section that can be either Reading, Writing and Language, or Math, but as far as we know (the College Board has never directly addressed the topic), that “experimental section” does not count toward your score
What Options Are There for Assistance in SAT Prep?
If you took your first test without much prior preparation, then now is the time to look for that expert direction that can get your score to the level you desire.
There are plenty of free SAT resources out there, starting with what the College Board provides on its website. Khan Academy also offers free help, with the official College Board practice tests available there as well. If you are looking for a course that provides guided training, then you may want to check out Kaplan or The Princeton Review. Keep in mind that those programs cost money, and you may not be able to work through the whole course before you retake the test.
Personalized Prep Is Most Effective
When it comes to SAT prep leading up to a retake, though, no online program or free resources will match the personalized experience of SAT tutoring.
Self-directed prep work may be great for raising your score from, say, a 1100 to a 1200, but you’ll need a tutor to guide you to your ultimate target score. It’s likely that many of the mistakes you made on your last SAT aren’t the kind that are as easily corrected; rather, they’re subtle ones primarily resulting from an unfamiliarity with test-taking skills.
That’s where an SAT tutor can really help, so it’s best to reach out as soon as you get the scores back from your last test. Thanks to the development of powerful online learning platforms, tutors can guide your SAT prep sessions just as effectively as they could if they were right next to you.
What Should Students Focus On When Prepping for An SAT Retake?
If you’re looking for some SAT studying tips so you can achieve your target score, it’s best to focus on three areas: content, strategy, and timing. That’s where having access to expertise really pays off, as a skilled tutor can direct your SAT practice and teach you the test-taking skills and time-management tips that will lead to your best possible score on the next SAT.
SAT Math Prep
If you’re like most students, you are especially in need of help with SAT Math prep. Your tutor can work with you to refresh your skills in certain content areas. Maybe you took geometry two or three years ago and can’t remember a thing about circles, or perhaps you never received full instruction on probability and statistics.
Be open about those topics you’re rusty on, and your tutor will select the best SAT Math practice to shore up those shaky areas. If you’re one of the many students that don’t really know how to use his of her calculator effectively, you can lean on your SAT Math tutor to teach you just what that graphing calculator is capable of.
SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Prep
So, what about the other two sections? Well, there is some benefit to reviewing the basics of reading and writing. A capable SAT Writing tutor can help by reteaching the grammatical rules tested most often in the Writing and Language section, and an SAT Reading tutor can instruct you on how to interpret each question and scan the text to identify key information.
While you are probably familiar with some basic strategies that can be used on multiple-choice tests, your tutor can teach you how and when to use process-of-elimination, show you when to skip questions and return to them later, and guide you on how to work backwards from the answers.
If timing is your main issue, the treatment is practice, practice, practice. Your tutor may suggest that you time yourself on portions of practice tests to make sure you’re moving at the right speed for each Reading passage and each sub-section of the Math tests. All 10 of the College Board’s official SAT practice tests are available for download online, along with the answer keys, explanations, and tables to determine your scaled scores.
The more practice tests you take, the more familiar with the SAT you’ll become and the more prepared you’ll be for your next retake.
When Can the SAT Be Taken?
The next official SAT test date is on December 5, and that will be the last one in 2020. Yes, we’re all looking forward to moving on from this unusual and stressful year, but the coronavirus doesn’t care about our feelings. It isn’t going away anytime soon, so plan carefully and stay updated.
This past summer, the College Board added an SAT test date in September, so it may add another before March 13, the first one scheduled in 2021. Just remember that if you pass on the December date, you won’t be able to retake the SAT for another three months.
For all the latest information on test center availability, capacity, and potential closures, go to the College Board website. There you will also find updates on test center health and safety requirements, including Covid safety screenings on location.
Retaking the SAT?
While almost everyone’s plans have been disrupted this year, you still have time to regroup and focus on retaking the SAT. With experienced tutors and quality resources available online, you can capitalize on that extra time and be fully prepared for that next opportunity to improve your score.
Ultimately, the SAT is a test of how well you can take the SAT, so the more you practice, the more you will recognize the different question types and thus settle more quickly on the right strategy. An expert SAT tutor gives you the best chance of achieving your target score by helping you review and evaluate your SAT results and practice tests.
While you may recognize your mistakes after looking at the answers, a tutor can better identify which strategies may have been more appropriate so you can make quick and efficient strategy decisions the next time around.