Colleges seeing your SAT scores

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Discus: SAT/ACT Tests and Test Preparation: October 2003 Archive: Colleges seeing your SAT scores
By Soraji (Soraji) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 03:38 am: Edit

I know most people take the SAT a few times during high school, so I thought I'd ask this... I'm a junior in high school and am planning to take the SAT I this December. However, I also plan to take it at least once again this year and a final time senior year.

My question is which scores will colleges see? I hear some people say your highest, some people say your average, and others say they see all your scores. Which is true? Does it depend on your college/high school?

Thanks for your imput. Sorry if this was asked earlier... I didn't see a thread for it.

By Jason (Jason) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 03:52 am: Edit

They see all of your scores. Supposedly, they only use your highest in the admissions process.

You should avoid taking the SAT more than 3 times, however, as this is looked down upon by most admissions officers.

Your schedule seems fine. (Assuming you are going to fit the SATIIs somewhere in there as well).

By Wjk323 (Wjk323) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 04:58 am: Edit


Where did you get the information that adcom's "look down upon" people who have taken the SAT more than 3 times. This is an urban legend. This idea sounds reasonable, but it is not. Colleges will only look at your highest scores. You can take it 100 times and it wont hurt your changes.

By Yz16 (Yz16) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 01:01 pm: Edit

actually, harvard had something on their site about strongly recommending against 3.

i think it was harvard. maybe stanford?

it was some big shot ivy.

just trust me on it hehe.

By Jason (Jason) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 02:41 pm: Edit

I think Hernandaz (former Dartmough admissions officier) said something about that in her book. I'm not positive though - I will check and get back to you.

Plus, there really is no need to take the SAT more than 3 times.

By Studiousvegetar (Studiousvegetar) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 08:21 pm: Edit

Once, maybe twice is max. It's bad if you take it like 5 times with little or no improvement.

By Rubenizm (Rubenizm) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 08:42 pm: Edit

stanford is not a big shot ivy.
And i doubt they would look down on it if you took it like with big intervals. say you take one in fall of sophomore year get a 1100, then retake it in junior twice and then senior and raise it a lot like to 1450

By Number9 (Number9) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 09:16 pm: Edit

I have always been confused with the part you fill out to send certain schools your scores.

What's the real purpose of that if they'll see them later when you apply there?

By Andrew123s (Andrew123s) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 09:32 pm: Edit

You have to send your scores to the colleges you are applying to. At the time of registration, you can send your scores to 4 schools for free. However, you still have to make sure you sent your scores to the colleges you apply to for them to be considered. When you send your scores, all scores will go (except old sat II score choice holds).

By Halawakid (Halawakid) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 11:27 pm: Edit

i would think that colleges would want applicants to do as well on their sats as possible, in order to boost their class mean. i do not see why a school would discourage multiple sittings.

By Z00b (Z00b) on Wednesday, October 22, 2003 - 11:37 pm: Edit

On a related note, is there any advantage to sending them to four colleges after each testing for free? Should one wait until all tests are completed before sending off official reports?

By Curiousone (Curiousone) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 06:31 am: Edit

No advantage...just a waste of trees.

Each score report has the scores for all the tests you've taken so far...but if you send one as I foolishly did after your first SAT I, then they're going to have to get another one anyway with your SAT II's, so what's the point?

By Xitammarg (Xitammarg) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 06:49 am: Edit

A lot of schools will tell you not to take the SAT more than 3 times, but this isn't because they look down on it--supposedly, they have statistics that show that most people plateau after 3 tests, and they're trying to help you save your time and money. But I got my best score after the 5th time, and I know lots of people who plateau after 2 or 3 times but then shoot up again after test 5 or 6.

The important thing to remember is that your application will likely receive less than 5 minutes of an adcom's attention. They don't have the time to play mind games and try to figure out what your scoring trend says about your personality. In fact, at a lot of large schools, the adcom doesn't even see your scoring history; they have assistants who break down your stats (re-calculate GPAs, compile IB/AP scores, etc) and compile them, so that the only score that makes its way to the adcom is the one the school will consider anyway, no matter how many times you take the test.

One other thing--I've never heard of a school not taking your highest possible score. There are other tests for grad school admissions where schools will only consider your average score, but I've never heard of that for undergrad admissions. (It doesn't mean it couldn't happen, though--check your target schools--I'm just saying I've never heard of it.)

By Bjrnhl86 (Bjrnhl86) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 07:07 am: Edit

Its not that they look down upon your scores after three tries, just differently. If you take the test up to three times they take your highest math and highest verbal. However, after the third time, they average the sections separately.

By Xitammarg (Xitammarg) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 07:08 am: Edit

I never heard that before (not that I'm saying it's wrong). Where did you learn that? Is there a link or something you could post?


By Massdad (Massdad) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 09:22 am: Edit

OK folks, time for some data:

The college board (CB) published research note 5 on September, 1998, entitled "Score Change When Retaking the SAT I: Reasoning Test". You can find it on their web site, but I'll summarize the results.

One retake, score gain of 13 points
Two retakes, score gains of 9 and 11 for 20 total
Three, gains of 12,8 and 11 for 31 total
Four, gains of 11,7,9 and 11 for 38 total.

Conclusion: No plateau. But, in interpreting this data, be cautioned. It does not address prep between tests. More importantly, the CB has known for years that scores rise, on average, each time someone takes the test because of maturity. That's a big part of the reason coaching schools can be so confident of score increases. So, in order to take the test 5 times, you would have taken the first test early in your junior year. Your first test score would have been lower, because you were younger, so you would have had more time to mature before you took the final test.

So, what to adcoms do? It is all over the map. Most have said that too many retakes shows a lack of self confidence. And that's probably the WORST message to send to a school. Tread carefully. the scores are not the whole story on an applicant.

By Xitammarg (Xitammarg) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 10:05 am: Edit

I agree that there is no statistical basis for the plateau theory, but it's still true that most counselors (and posters) will tell you your score doesn't go up after three tests. I don't believe it myself, and the data above would discount the idea, but that's the perception out there.

More importantly, it doesn't matter what the statistics say--even if 100% of all previous testers hit a plateau after the 3rd test, every individual student still has control over his own performance.

And I agree with massdad--the students I've helped who had hit the wall after 3 tests or so all attributed their score improvements to coaching/maturity improvements, like you said. In my own experience, I first took the test in 7th grade, then about once a year starting in 10th grade, with a couple of extra times as a senior. I was never coached, but I did grow more confident with each test.

Where I disagree (not just with massdad, but with almost every single post I've seen on the subject) is with the idea that adcoms draw any sort of inference from scoring histories. The admissions people that I have spoken to (at state schools, private schools, and Ivies) have all said that they don't care how many times the test is taken.

And like I said above, one state school rep told me that adcoms don't even SEE the score report at his school, and said this was common practice as far as he knew (in much the same way that many schools recalculate GPAs, and the adcom never sees the GPA as calculated by the high school).

I do agree with massdad, but few of the others on this board, about the relative (un)importance of SAT scores to an application. Applicants with low scores or bad grades frequently get accepted--to private schools in particular--in favor of applicants with higher numbers. I've even heard an admissions guy at Princeton stand up in front of a room of touring students and say, bluntly, "We don't care about your SAT score." (It could be argued, of course, that Princeton doesn't care because they see great scores all the time. But that's what he said.)

If anybody has any more info on any of this--like the bona fide testimony of an adcom, or some similar thing--I'd be very interested in it.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 11:27 am: Edit


Regarding the relative importance or lack of for SAT scores, it really DOES vary from school to school. Some, such as U Mich before the supremes ruled against them, had a strict mathematical formula for admissions that included SAT scores. Many large state universities tend to be rather formulistic in their admissions. Some even base honors college admission and scholarship aid based partly or solely on SAT scores. The number of applicants, coupled with limited state budgets AND a push (from state politicians, parents and so forth) to be objective lead them to over use SAT scores in decision making.

Now, for highly selective schools, it is a completely different story. They can afford more careful evaluation, and because they are mostly private, they can get away with being more subjective in their decision making.

Interestingly, because HS grades correlate so highly with SAT score, and because of a related problem called score range compression, the impact of ignoring SAT scores on student body composition is negligible. The College Board's own research shows that SATII scores are better predictors anyway. The CB has some interesing researh papers on their site.

Final remark - I've been commenting on statistical results, and generalizations regarding how populations are handled. They obviously have nothing to do with individual performance or outcomes. Schools build classes (populations) by admitting individuals. It's dangerous to generalize in this area!

By Yz16 (Yz16) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 11:35 am: Edit

aww rubenizm, you know what i mean : )

just to get back at you, note soraji wrote:
I'm a junior in high school and am planning to take the SAT I this December. However, I also plan to take it at least once again this year and a final time senior year.

so your 'big intervals' thing doesn't apply.

By T2opine (T2opine) on Thursday, October 23, 2003 - 09:04 pm: Edit

I have a question about score reports. When they are actually mailed to your house, do they also include the scores from previous tests you took? Just wondering

By Pinklemonade87 (Pinklemonade87) on Saturday, October 25, 2003 - 10:33 pm: Edit

yah i think they do

By Jadephoenix1378 (Jadephoenix1378) on Saturday, November 01, 2003 - 12:02 am: Edit

If you've sent all your scores to college already, and you take another test afterward, is the score for that test automatically sent, or are they held by collegeboad until you pay? Thanks.

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