You’ve Received Your ACT/SAT Scores: What to Do Next

Today’s article was written by Heather Hamilton.

After months of preparing for a test as large as the ACT or SAT, it can be kind of anticlimactic to actually enter the room and take the exam. Once you leave the room, this feeling is further amplified. Typically, we feel the pressure to perform well on a test, but what happens after?

Though you may feel like your job is done, there are a few more steps to ensure that your test preparation was not in vain.

1. Do your research

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to research the average score for the school or schools you hope to attend. This can give you a good idea about how you compare—and your likelihood of being accepted to a school based upon your score. Once you’ve taken these initial steps, you’ll know whether or not you need to retake the SAT or ACT. Then, you can reschedule as needed and adjust your study plan to ensure you get the score you are aiming for.

Learning how to interpret your score will give you valuable information, so focus on percentages.

2. Formulate a plan

Now that you know what exactly your score means (and what you’re aiming for), it is time to make a plan. If you received a score that you’re happy with, you’re almost done. If you’re less happy with your score, spend some time making a detailed plan that will guide your study.

Look at future test dates, specific areas for improvement, and paths you might take for better scores. Think about study aids, tutors, and practice tests. Map out a schedule and stick to it.

3. Look at your other qualifications

As you’re applying for colleges, you’re probably noticing that you’re stronger in some areas than in others. After you receive your ACT or SAT scores, you’ll have a better grasp on the strength of your overall application. If your scores are less than you had hoped and you will not be retaking the ACT/SAT, you may choose to strengthen other parts of your application.

If your score is exceptional, you may focus on your finals instead of adding another extracurricular activity or internship. Tailor your remaining school year based on your score to present the strongest possible application.

4. Remember that you can change your mind

While most students tell the testing agency where to send exam scores, you’ve always got time to change your mind. If you alter your plans, you can contact the ACT or SAT folks, who can submit your scores to additional schools as you request—you’ll have to plan ahead and pay a bit of money, but you will be able to make adjustments to your plans even after you’ve taken the SAT or ACT.

The bottom line

The good news is that, by the time you receive your SAT or ACT scores, most of the work is done. Even if you choose to take the test over, you’ve done a lot of the work already; the second time should come much easier. As with most things academic, a little planning can go a long way.


Heather Hamilton is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.