Ask Test Masters is a great, free service that allows you to ask the experts at Test Masters all of your test prep and college admissions questions. If you have a question, send it to us – chances are other people are wondering the same thing. Reader Alissa asked:
“I have heard there was a new “law” so to speak that keeps the amount of times students have taken the SAT confidential. This will give students more of a hold on the scores they receive and the power to send the score they wish to be sent to colleges out without letting them know how many times a student has taken it. If, then, it is true, would it not matter how many times you take it?”
While no new legislation has been passed with regard to the SAT, the College Board, the corporation that creates and administers the SAT exam, changed its score reporting policy back in 2009 by introducing the Score Choice option for test takers (another very helpful website is www.scorechoice.com). Before 2009, any college that a student applied to would receive the scores from every SAT exam that that student had ever taken, the good with the bad. Now, you have the power to choose which scores you send to colleges. This means that if you do really badly one time, then Harvard will never have to know about it.
While this might sound great, there are a few caveats. For instance, you cannot choose to withhold individual sections of a particular test. This means that if you take the test and do really well on the Reading and Writing sections but terribly on the Math section, you will not be able to withhold only the Math section: you must send the scores for either the whole test or none of it. Considering that most colleges only consider your best scores from each section anyway, you might as well submit the scores from that test, warts and all, unless you can replicate or surpass your Reading and Writing scores while bringing up your Math score on a subsequent test.
With this in mind, the main advantage of Score Choice is that it allows you to take the test as many times as you want and only send your best scores. It is important to note, however, that some colleges have rejected Score Choice (Cornell, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale, for example), and still require students to submit all of their scores. There is however, no way for these schools to know if you actually send all of the scores or not. You can be dishonest, take the test 10 times, and only send your two best scores, and there will be no way for Yale to know about it. You might feel a bit slimy about lying, though.
Would you really want to take the test 10 times anyway, though? Each test costs money, and by waiting to see your scores before you send them you waive the opportunity to send four score reports for free. Instead of taking the real test a gazillion times, it might be wiser to just prepare and practice and then take the real test, say, twice. At Test Masters, we offer a service called Exam Club that allows students access to 42 real past SAT Exams that they can take in a proctored setting (yes, some students take all 42). Additionally, after taking an exam, they can then choose to go over their results with a professional SAT expert (like me). However you choose to do it, it’s definitely wiser to make all your mistakes before you take the SAT for real, and if you practice until you consistently get the scores you want, you can feel confident on test day that you’ll perform just as well.
Hope this answers all your questions, Alissa, and until next time, happy studying!