Should I Re-Take the SATs?

By The Study Hall | May 13, 2019

The SAT can make a student feel extremely bright or like they have never stepped foot in a school before, but before students and parents panic, there are several things to keep in mind.

The SATs DO NOT measure intelligence

The SATs are meant to be a guide to help colleges know how prepared a student is for college.  It is one of several factors many colleges use to determine admittance and financial aid.  They do not measure one’s intelligence or how smart a person is.   Many honors level students, who normally get As and Bs in their classes, can get low scores on the SAT.  Likewise, a marginal student who never takes any honors level classes can get high scores.   What really plays into how well a student does on the test is how much effort and energy he or she did to prepare for it, and perhaps a bit of luck added in.  Students need to take a hard look at how much they practiced, studied, and prepared for the test.

How SATs are scored

The redesigned SAT is scored out of a possible 1600 points. 800 for Evidence Based Reading and Writing and 800 for Math. There is an optional Essay that is scored on a 2-8 scale. The Evidence Based Reading & Writing is broken down into two sections: Reading and Writing & Language. The Math portion has a calculator and non-calculator portion and covers three main areas: Problem Solving and Data & Analysis, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math.  A student's score is based on questions answered correctly, there is no longer a penalty for answering questions incorrectly. Scores in the 500 range are considered average, scores above 600 are considered very good, and scores below 400 are considered low. The current college readiness benchmark for the Evidence Based Reading & Writing is 480 and for math its 530.

How Colleges Interpret Scores

Colleges usually have a bar they like their students to be near with their scores, but this range can vary.  Colleges usually post their range on their websites or students can ask admissions personnel to find out what scores the colleges are looking for.  Keep in mind, this is only one part of the college admittance process, so a low or high score doesn't guarantee acceptance or rejection.  Colleges have to look at the entire application, not just one part.

This being said, scores may be brought up in an interview if colleges notice they are high, low, or average.  The course of study a student is interested can also be considered when it comes to the scores.  For instance, if a student wants to study math at MIT, they should have a pretty high Math score.  If a student wants to study psychology at a state school, the college may just want average scores in both sections.  Therefore, the scores could mean more or less depending on each student's course of study and colleges he or she is applying to.

Where to go from here

After students receive their scores, they have a few decisions to make.  The most pressing one is whether to accept their scores as they are or re-take the SATs.  Most students take the SATs two or three times, and the average student increases their scores between 20-50 points per section. With prep, these increases can be much more dramatic between 80-140 points per section. Colleges will receive only the scores of the tests that the student wants them to see; students can pick and choose which test scores (the entire test not sections) go to the colleges.  What the student is willing to do to prepare for the second or third re-take should determine whether he or she should go for it or not.

If a student decides to take the SATs again, he or she should go to to look over the breakdown of each section, see where he or she did well or did poorly, and use the information given to help him or her study for next time. The Study Hall highly suggest that students order either the Question-and-Answer Service or the Student Answer Service from College Board if they are planning on taking the SATs for a second time. These services aid in pinpointing areas of weakness and serve as a good way to evaluate how you did on each section of the test. For a small fee, these services can be ordered from

Once a student has done this, then he or she can decide on which approach to take to review, study, and prepare for his or her re-take.  There are books, classes, individual tutoring, tutoring agencies, like The Study Hall, and websites to help a student to prepare.   A student should not think he or she can show up for a re-take and automatically do better the next time.  Reviewing the material, practicing by taking tests, and learning strategies are essential so they may do the best they can.

If any parent would like further help with understanding the scores, determining the best next step for re-taking the SATs, assistance with preparing for the SATs, even if it is one of the areas that are tested, please contact The Study Hall at 236-3949 or email  The Study Hall has proven strategies that can help and make a difference in the confidence of the student taking the test and their scores.

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