Should I Retake the SAT / ACT?
Case Studies Let’s look at these three examples so you can understand some of the factors influencing my advice:
- Student #1: High GPA, very involved student, wants to apply to big state universities.
- Student #2: Student athlete, 3.5 GPA from private college-preparatory high school. Scored 21 on initial ACT. Retook and now has a super score of 24. May try to play for some academically competitive universities.
- Student #3: B student ranked in the top 50% of her large suburban high school. Undecided on colleges; wants to keep options open. Has played basketball for three years and has some school club involvement, but nothing extensive. Highest score is an 1110 on the SAT.
Student #1Student #1 has a GPA of 4.85 out of 5.0 and has consistent and significant involvement in a few extracurricular activities. The schools on her list are primarily large state universities like Texas A&M and University of Oklahoma. She is an ideal candidate for test optional admission. Test optional means the student has the choice whether to send ACT / SAT scores or not. If scores are submitted to colleges, they will be used in evaluating that student for admission. If no scores are sent, the school will only consider what they have received: transcripts, applications, essays, etc. Test optional means students should only send scores that help. Student #1 has the grades, activities, and can put together a strong application. Her only weakness is her test score (ACT of 24). If she applies without sending her ACT results, her application will focus only on her strengths. If she retakes the ACT, will she be able to improve her score enough? It might be difficult for her to bring her test scores on par with the rest of her application. My advice: save the time and effort that could be spent on additional test prep. Instead focus on the application and essays. Be thankful schools are extending test optional policies. Student #1 is the ideal candidate for the test optional model.
Student #2Student #2 starts to move us into some grey areas. Her grades are pretty good. Unlike student #1, she does not have a top-of-the-class average, but she is a solid student from a highly competitive private school. She’s also an athlete looking to play her sport in college. Her current ACT score of a 24 puts her in the 75 percentile (think of this as a top quarter score.) Her need to retake the ACT / SAT will depend on a few factors:
- Where she decides to apply & the average scores at those schools
- How aggressively particular coaches want to recruit her and the scores they ask her to produce
- How much she can improve her test scores with extra work
Student #3Student #3 has average grades and scores. They are not bad, but she wishes they were higher. Her 1110 on the SAT is equivalent to a 22 on the ACT. She knows she will not qualify for automatic admission at most of our Texas universities based on class rank and scores. There is no way for her to improve her GPA or class rank once this semester ends, so her only possible area for improvement would be her test scores. Student #3 is in a difficult position. She has already spent a lot of time and effort preparing for the SAT and has taken it twice. Her ability to add to her score is in question. She’s still researching colleges but is getting discouraged because she feels her grades, test scores, and activities are just not strong enough. Let’s look at a specific example. The University of Houston will offer automatic admission to students:
- In the 25%-50% class rank who apply without scores but have an unweighted GPA of at least 3.45 in core academic classes. (GPA will be recalculated by UH and will not include elective courses.)
- In the 25% – 50% class rank who score an 1170 SAT / 24 ACT.