If a student receives a 1400 SAT score, that puts them in the 94th percentile, meaning the student performed better than 94% of all test takers. With a 1500 on the test, the student would be in the 99th percentile, which is a difference of about 10 more questions answered correctly.
To get a perfect score, meaning to get a 1600, there is a difference of 20 more correctly answered questions. While these may not seem like big differences, students must keep in mind that to raise their scores, they must once again also answer another hundred or so questions correctly. This, however, is certainly achievable. Yet, students must consider a variety of factors when making the choice of whether to retake the SAT or not.
One thing is for certain: a higher score can put several out of reach schools within grasp of students and may even help them qualify for scholarships and honors program that they could not receive with a 1400.
All the Ivy Leagues, and other top universities such as Northeastern University, Georgetown University, University of Southern California, and Tufts University maintain higher SAT averages than a 1400 among their admitted students.
Students should consider some of the following questions when making their decision on retaking the test:
What is your target score?
Before attempting the first SAT test, students should establish a target score for themselves. This score may be dependent on their performance on practice tests, their target schools, and their test-taking abilities. Most universities publish their admitted class statistics, which will tell you the standardized test scores (SAT and ACT) of their admitted students in the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile. For example, for Cornell University’s admitted class of 2024, the 25th percentile score was 1410, the 50th percentile score was 1490, and the 75th percentile score was 1530. Make sure to look up your dream school’s statistics when setting your target score.
If after the first attempt, students are hundreds of points away from their target score, they should retake the test to keep in reach the schools they had originally set their intention to. If, on the other hand, they are only 20-50 points off their target, they might consider if, in fact, there is some wiggle room with their target.
Even if a student did not set a target score before their first attempt, they can look at their scores from the first attempt and ask themselves if it is a fair representation of their average performance. Students should consider which schools they are aiming for and research what the average scores of admitted students to those universities are.
Did you underperform?
Simply because a student did not receive their target score does not mean that they underperformed – depending on how high their standards were, they might’ve received a perfectly good SAT score. Completing full practice tests as preparation for the test not only prepares students well for the real test, but it also enables them to determine if they truly underperform. This is why the primary practice method for SAT prep used by SoFlo tutors is assigning real tests from past years to students.
If a student is more than 100 points below their average practice test score, they probably underperformed. On the one hand, this can be quite frustrating, but on the other, underperformance can be easily addressed by retaking the test.
Test anxiety, making silly mistakes, filling in the answer sheet wrong, or misreading instructions are common reasons for underperformance. With a little bit more alertness and mental will, these issues can be overcome. Students should also discuss such issues with their tutors to come up with personalized solutions that work for them.
How many times have you taken the test?
A study released by the College Board found that students have the most growth in test scores between the first and second attempt. The College Board also recommends that students take the SAT twice.
Typically, by the third attempt, students’ scores tend to plateau. If it is the student’s fourth attempt, they should consider investing that time and energy elsewhere. Yet, there is no one size fits all. If a student feels still unsatisfied with their scores and knows they can perform better, the SAT is accessible for more attempts. But it is important to keep in mind that after the third attempt, while it is still possible to improve, the difference is not very significant.
How much time do you have to prepare?
One general rule of thumb: Students should give their first attempt on the SAT well in advance, so they have time to retake it at least once. Unless a student scores perfectly the first time, there is always room for improvement.
Keeping this in mind, the student must ask themselves how well they prepared for the test the first time. If a student prepared efficiently the first time, chances are they will receive a score similar to their first attempt in the second one and may be able to give their second attempt soon after the first one.
But if a student did not prepare the best they could, they are more likely to see a larger score increase if they study the content well for the next attempt. This student, however, will also need more time to seriously prepare for the test. With all the other obligations in a student’s life, such as school, sports and family, such a student may have to wait at least two months to retake the exam.
Having taken the test at least once, students have the advantage of knowing how they perform under pressure and which content areas they need most work on. Therefore, preparing for a retake is often must more efficient than preparing for the first attempt.
It is also important to remember, however, that the college admissions process is holistic, and other application factors such as their school grades and extracurriculars are crucial components of the college application.
If a student simply does not have enough time to prepare for another attempt, perhaps because there are several high school exams and assignments or major sports tournaments coming up, they should not jeopardize their performance on these other aspects all for the potential of a higher score (which is not even guaranteed).
The Bottom Line
Every student is different and so are each student’s circumstances. When deciding whether to retake the SAT after scoring a 1400, students must carefully consider all the factors above. If a student has decided to retake the SAT no matter what, we suggest a smart studying method. In other words, cramming for the test or beginning preparations a few days in advance is not recommended.
Instead, students should analyze their score reports, work with their tutor, and understand their specific areas of improvement. Completing practice tests regularly and going over mistakes is also highly recommended.
Keep in mind that college admissions takes into account many more factors in addition to the SAT score, like GPA and extracurricular activities. In fact, top colleges with low acceptance rates like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and New York University expect a stellar all-around application, not only a good score.
All in all, students should firstly consider their desired score, the averages scores of colleges to which they intend to apply, their test performance compared to their average practice test performance, the number of test attempts already done, and preparation time. Lastly, getting help from others like tutors can also be a huge help in the test-taking and decision-making process.
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