If you’re like most college-bound high-school students, you will wind up taking the SAT multiple times in order to achieve your highest possible score—the number that represents the best display of the academic abilities you’ve worked so hard to sharpen. It’s therefore natural to wonder whether colleges can see all your SAT scores.
Do colleges see all your SAT scores?
Do colleges see all your SAT scores? And if so, do schools silently penalize students for less-ideal test scores achieved before attaining their highest score?
The short answer, and probably the one you’re hoping for, is “no.” But there’s more you need to know about this—knowledge you can use to your academic advantage, depending on what colleges you’re planning to apply to.
Do colleges see how many times you take the SAT?
You may have asked yourself, “Do you have to send all SAT subject test scores?” And if the answer is “yes,” you may also be wondering, “Will colleges know if you don’t send all SAT scores?”
As a rule, you and you alone get to choose which SAT scores to make available to college admission committees. This makes sense from an administrative standpoint; it spares colleges from collecting and storing needless data. A lower SAT score doesn’t delegitimize your best one.
Do you have to send all SAT scores?
You’re probably thinking that if colleges can see how many times you took the SAT, and there is a major difference between your highest score and your lowest score—either your combined score, your score in a particular section, or both—then this will lower your chances of being admitted to any of them.
Whether this concern has merit or not is generally a moot point. Most U.S. colleges and universities will see only the SAT scores you make available to them during the application process.
Exceptions to the rule
Some schools do in fact require you to submit your complete SAT testing record. You can find out from the admissions departments of individual colleges; this is your best bet, because although you can find websites that aggregate lists of colleges that do want to see all of your SAT scores, schools are continually updating their admissions policies—many of which changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because schools requiring you to submit your entire SAT testing record do exist, and because schools are known to change their policies, you should carefully consider the consequences of taking the SAT without adequate preparation or as a “dress rehearsal,” even if you are eager to so do.
The implications of sending all SAT scores
When do colleges know how many times you took the SAT, and have specifically requested and required this information, they
If you are young and planning to apply to a school that requires all SAT scores to be sent, you may consider not sitting for the SAT test until your practice testing indicates that you are as prepared as you can be at this stage of your academic career. If your results on early-age tests don’t turn out to meet your hopes or expectations, they could come back to haunt you. So be prepared!
What is “superscoring”?
Some colleges will combine your score from the math section of one SAT test with your score on the reading and writing section of another test and use the result as a single SAT score, a process known as “superscoring.”
If you score especially well on the math section of one SAT and the verbal section of the SAT on another SAT, and the score calculated by adding these significantly exceeds your total score on any individual, complete SAT test you take, it may be to your benefit to allow admissions committees to see all of your scores even if this is not compulsory.
You have plenty to think about as a college-bound high-school student. If you’ve found your study or other time interrupted with the nagging question, “Can colleges see how many times you take the SAT?”, you can consider the query asked and answered: Unless they explicitly specify otherwise—and you can find this out with ease for every school of interest—then they can’t. You can choose to disclose the information, but otherwise, that information is yours to distribute as you please.
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Even though many colleges don’t require students to send all of their SAT scores, it’s always best to take the SAT in as few attempts as possible.
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About the Author
Kevin Beck has a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Vermont with minors in math and chemistry. He has worked as a high-school teacher, private tutor, and science and fitness writer for over twenty years, and his 1987 SAT score scales to a 1560 today. A competitive distance runner, he placed 28th overall at the 2001 Boston Marathon in a time of 2:24:17.