Many students wonder and worry about how many times to take the SAT. Taking the test several times may expand the likelihood of increasing scores, yet taking it too many times some say may be looked upon unfavorably by colleges.
The general rule of thumb is to take the test no more than three times, but this is more an issue of student burn-out than university preference. Almost zero colleges (except for Georgetown, of course) have an “all scores” policy that would require you to send every SAT score you’ve ever had.
As for my past students, I’ve observed that about 20% take the test once, 30-40% take it twice, and 30% take it three times. A few will take it four or more times, particularly if their top colleges accept score choice or they are athletes (though usually at that point, we’ll switch to the ACT). If you’re unhappy with the first two takes, taking it a third time is fine so long as you put in extra effort to prepare or change up your efforts.
As a tutor, I’m often that “extra effort” so I see more kids taking it multiple times. The other reason to take it three times is if you’ve been scoring significantly higher on all your practice tests and struggle with test anxiety. Sometimes then you just need a bump in luck. Because the test does involve some luck, a few takes will usually help you avoid a bad day and potentially super score your way to a slightly higher score.
If you’re an athletic recruit, however, you may want to take it as many times as possible. Typically schools don’t care if these students take the SAT multiple times. In essence, the athletes are just trying to hit a “mark” to appease the admissions committee.
An important note is that if you’re going to take an administered SAT test for the first time, do not go into the exam cold. Instead, consider taking a full length practice exam at home in order to gauge your performance level and see what you know (and don’t know). If you don’t at least take one practice test at home before heading to the testing center, you’re essentially setting yourself up at a disadvantage and wasting both your time and potential. But also remember that practice makes perfect! The more times you take the test at home, the more comfortable you’d be taking the actual test.
The bottom line is that there isn’t an exact number of times that every student should take the SAT. The test is offered 7 times a year (official 2023-2024 national test dates), so, theoretically, you could take it seven times a year if you really wanted to. However, it is important to do the research on which of your prospective schools allow score choice in order to gage how many times to take the test and how to appropriately prepare for them.