Deciding how many times to take the ACT or SAT is difficult. We all want students to earn scores high enough to fairly reflect their academic abilities and help them gain admission to the colleges on their lists. But at the same time it can feel like a never ending cycle of practice – test—wait for results – repeat.

When should a student retake? When it is time to move on to other aspects of the college admissions process? In this video I discuss my recommendations.

First, it might help to understand that nationwide most students take their test of choice 2 to 3 times. It is possible, but less common, for students to feel satisfied with their first attempt at either the SAT or ACT.

Colleges understand students may be submitting scores from multiple test dates. By considering either the best score on a single test or by combining best scores from different sections taken on different days (superscoring), colleges are looking to use a student’s best scores. In other words, if a student can score higher by retesting, colleges will use that higher score.

Here are good reasons to retake:

1. You have only taken the test once.

Many students return to their second test attempt with a better idea of what to expect and what they need to do to prepare.

2. You have made significant changes in your approach to the test or you have spent significant time studying and preparing since your last attempt.

Simply taking the SAT or ACT over won’t result in higher scores. But when students have devoted serious time and effort to improvement, I would encourage them to retake.

3. You have a specific score goal that is realistically attainable. (You need a few more points to meet a specific goal.)

If you know that 100 more points on the SAT will guarantee you thousands of dollars in scholarship money, retake the test. If you need 2 more points on the ACT to earn assured admission at your dream school, retake the test.

Keep working towards your goal (studying) and don’t assume that just taking the test again will result in higher scores.


It might be time to stop taking the SAT or ACT and start focusing on other aspects of the college admissions process when:

1. You have already taken the test three times.

Students who have already taken the test, changed their strategies, tested again, and still not met score goals, may not do any better taking the test for a fourth, fifth, or sixth time.

2. You have already put in considerable effort to prepare.

If you have put in hour after hour learning the material, taking practice tests, adjusting your approach, and working on improvement, you may have reached your maximum score potential.


At some point , test takers need to determine whether the time and effort to prepare for one more SAT or ACT is worth it. Or if that energy would be better used working on college applications.