SAT Score Choice and SAT Superscore: How to Show Colleges the Best Possible Score

Preparing for the SAT is hard work. Students practice every day for months, perfect their test-taking techniques, and sometimes take the test three or even four times. This article aims to help students capitalize on their efforts when presenting SAT scores to colleges. It will define two important terms: SAT superscore and Score Choice. It will advise students on how to incorporate these terms into an application. With the help of this article, applicants should be able to take full advantage of colleges’ policies regarding the SAT.

What is SAT Superscoring?

SAT superscoring can be defined as combining the best scores on individual SAT sections from different test dates. The result is at least the same score and often a higher one. The table below shows a hypothetical student, Ben, who took the SAT twice and superscored:

Math Evidence-based Reading & Writing Total
Test Attempt One 710 640 1350
Test Attempt Two 660 700 1360
Superscore 710 700 1410

Note that Ben earned a higher Math score the first time than he did the second time and a higher Evidence-based Reading & Writing score the second time. Although his total was 1350 the first time and 1360 the second time, he combined the better scores by section from the two test dates to reach a super-scored 1400. He also did better in Writing the second time and kept that score. Thus, Ben’s new official score is now 1410.

Superscoring Strategies

The ability to superscore gives students a major advantage if they take the SAT multiple times. The second time, they can focus on improving areas that were shown to be weaker by the first test result. Moreover, if a student is satisfied with their Math score the first time, they are not required to study Math again because they can save the score from the first test date. Ben likely used this strategy the second time he took the test, and his score inconsequentially dropped 50 points.

In addition, students who take the SAT three or four times can focus on even more specific skills, such as complete passages, as they have even more results to work with. That said, taking the SAT more than two times is expensive and labor-intensive. It is usually preferable to take it fewer times and earn a high score in both sections at once. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Finally, while most students calculate their own super scored results, admissions representatives also calculate them themselves. Indicating a superscored result on an application is therefore unnecessary unless the application asks directly.

What is SAT Score Choice?

Score Choice is the applicant’s ability to present as many (or as few) SAT tests to colleges as they would like. In other words, a student can decide that they don’t want colleges to see one or more SAT result. Unfortunately, Score Choice is all or nothing: an applicant cannot omit an individual section from different test days like they can with superscoring.

Score Choice Strategies

Score Choice can be useful for a very straightforward reason: students score higher on some test attempts than others, especially on their second or third test attempt with more experience and test prep under their belt.

In addition, Score Choice and superscoring are closely related. Because colleges superscore the tests themselves, a test that is omitted through Score Choice cannot be factored into a superscore. This crucial fact shows that while superscoring and Score Choice are both useful, they sometimes counteract each other. For example, a student who earns a very high Evidence-based Reading & Writing score but does very poorly in Math would likely hide that test and forfeit the opportunity to superscore with Evidence-based Reading & Writing. This is another reason why scoring highly in both sections at once is so valuable.

While both superscoring and Score Choice come with limitations, they are powerful tools in an applicant’s arsenal. One’s presentation of the SAT to colleges receives a major boost if a bad score is omitted and the remaining tests are strategically superscored. However, not all colleges superscore or allow Score Choice, so students should research schools’ policies before deciding to apply. On the other hand, most schools do use these policies and reward students’ improvement throughout multiple attempts at the SAT.

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