To Retake or Not to Retake?

Published Saturday, December 25, 2010 by Katie

It’s 6am on a Thursday morning. Your alarm sounds, screaming at an inhuman pitch from your bedside table. You roll over to slam the snooze button—but wait. You just remembered. SAT scores came out online this morning! Bolting out of bed, you furiously log in to your laptop computer. In your sleep-addled state, it takes multiple tries to type the password into your computer, only adding to your anxiety. Finally, you reach the CollegeBoard site, log on, and navigate to the score report page. You close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then look hopefully upon the bright screen in front of you.

In all likelihood, you will be pleased by your score—courtesy of having attended all your Excel classes and having taken numerous practice tests at the Exam Club. But say, hypothetically, that your score is lower than you wanted. No matter if you scored 10 points below that elusive 2400 or if you scored a full 100 points lower than you did on that last practice test, there is one question that races through your mind: should you retake the SAT?

When first considered, a retake seems the panacea to all your SAT score woes. It’s always easier the next time, you think, I’m guaranteed to get the score I want if I retake the test. But is this always the case? The answer is no. Deciding whether or not to retake the SAT requires the consideration of a potpourri of factors.

First: were the circumstances surrounding your SAT test unfavorable? Perhaps the school at which you took the test was undergoing extensive construction that particular day. Perhaps the student behind you constantly jiggled your desk with his foot, no matter how forcefully you insisted he stop. Perhaps you had been recovering from a nasty cold that day, and your frequent coughing had disrupted your concentration. The list goes on, united by one common characteristic: the fates were just against you that day. If this was the case, then a retest is likely to result in a higher score.

Second: how did your SAT results compare to your scores on the practice tests? If they were about the same, then a retake is not likely to raise your score. If your results were lower, then there’s a pretty high chance that a retake will raise your score.

Third: how many practice tests did you take before attempting the real SAT test? Note that a real practice test entails writing an essay, sitting the entire four-hour duration of the test, and definitely not taking multiple breaks in the middle of sections. The SAT test is a mental marathon, and marathons require building up stamina. If you are not used to the mental challenge of enduring four hours of straight testing, then you will not do as well as you possibly can on the SAT. As such, if you have taken only a few practice tests in the Exam Club, your chances of scoring higher will likely be increased by taking more practice exams.

Fourth: have you fully utilized the free SAT tutoring services provided by Excel? Tutors will hone the skills you learned in the Excel group classes, and help you better understand any particular areas that you have difficulty with.

Finally: what are the costs of reaching for that higher score, and how do they compare to the benefits? Make sure that those extra few points are worth it. If studying for the SAT will detract from studying for school and will result in dropping grades, then it is not worth the effort. In fact, it may be beneficial to make a list with two columns: in one column, list the costs of studying to raise your score, and in the other column, list the benefits. Ultimately, keep in mind that your SAT score alone does not spell out acceptance or rejection from your college of choice; focusing on your unique talents will also boost your chances of being accepted.


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