Should You Retake the SAT?

Since it’ SAT/ACT season, I wanted to run a guest college blog post by Robert Levine, who graduated from the University of Miami with a BA in Finance.  He is currently serving as an SAT tutor for ParliamentTutors in Miami, FL.
FYI: If you missed my SAT post from yesterday, here it is: The Latest Lousy SAT Results
Just how much weight your SAT score holds on your overall college application is at best an educated guess.  Harder yet to predict is what score you will need to be accepted.
During the college application process, as with everything else in life, it is essential to focus on what you can control.  The question, therefore, shifts from how important is the SAT to how high do I need to score and should I retake the exam?
Admission offices say that they want to take the focus off of scores and onto the individual students, but at the end of the day they still need something to compare the student in Alaska, to the student in Miami, to the student in Maine. There is no perfect metric to compare these students so colleges have settled on the SAT.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Short of scoring a 2400, the invariable question still remains, should I retake the SAT?  Before you decide, you need to answer these questions:

  • How many times have you already taken the exam?
  • Have your scores improved on each try or have they gone down?
  • How much have you studied and do you plan on having the time to study before you would take it again?

If you have already taken the exam 3 times and have shown no improvement, it probably will not be worth the time and effort to retake the exam However, if you have taken the exam once before and you improved even by a little bit, or if this was your first try on the exam, then by all means I would say give it another try.  These answers of course are predicated on the answers to the last two questions.

Will You Study This Time?

If you tell me, however, that you have already taken the exam several times already without studying, or if you tell me that you never did your homework, I might encourage you to try it one last time. The caveat however, would be to study intensively before the next try.  And by study, I do not mean 2 hours a week.  I am talking about some serious effort, perhaps a section or two a night and a practice test on the weekend.
Now let us look at the other extreme.  You took the test twice and are thinking of retaking it a third time.  You did pretty well the first 2 times and showed decent improvement between the two tests.  Before the next test however, you tell me that the big state competition is this semester and you will be working with your team extensively after school and on the weekend. The question then becomes whether or not you think that you will be able to devote the time and effort to studying.

Commitment and Past Results Matter

It should be pretty clear by this point that retaking the SAT is not a matter of what school you want to get into or what score you are aiming for.  The question really boils down to how much you feel like you will be able to prepare and how you have done in the past. This of course isn’t the end all be all.  If you know you need to get 50 more points to qualify for a scholarship or to make the cut off to get into your first choice school then, of course you should push yourself and try one last time. At the end of the day, be realistic in your expectations of yourself but do not have any regrets.  Do not spend the next 4 years of college asking yourself “what if.”  Good Luck!
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of  Shrinking the Cost of College workbook.  She also writes a college blog for  CBSMoneyWatch and US News. Follow her on Twitter.

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