Should You Take the December SAT?

The College Board released the October SAT results this morning.  If you’re a senior and the test didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, what now?  Should you take the test again in December?  Maybe.  Here are some factors to weigh when considering your options:

Are schools going to “ding” me for taking the test multiple times?

No.  In the past week, we’ve called a variety of schools to determine whether or not any of them factor the number of times students take the standardized tests into their admissions decisions.  Every school we contacted said that the number of times a student takes the tests has no bearing on his or her application.

According to the undergraduate admissions office at Georgia Tech, the school uses a software program that pulls the top scores from a student’s profile so that the application reviewer does not see anything beyond the student’s top scores.  At UGA, admissions officers do see all of a student’s scores.  However, they do this solely so they can superscore the student’s tests (taking the highest score from each section, even if from different test dates), and they do not care how many times the student takes the test or what the trend of the scores was over the course of the student’s test-taking career.  The takeaway?  Don’t worry about taking the SAT or ACT too many times.

Do I have time to take the test again?

It depends.  Most schools will accept the December tests for students who apply through their regular admissions processes but not those who apply early action (EA)/early decision (ED).  Some schools also have rolling admissions processes, where they evaluate applications as they are submitted.  For these schools, it may be easier to attain admission if you complete your application early.

If you had planned to apply EA/ED – or if your top-choice school has rolling admissions – you will want to weigh the possible risks and rewards of taking the December tests and pushing your application into the regular admissions pool.  If you’ve already obtained fairly strong test scores and you’ve taken the test multiple times, the bump you’ll get by applying early may outweigh the potential increase you’ll see in December.  If, on the other hand, your current scores are significantly below the school’s averages and/or you haven’t taken test prep seriously enough in the past, the potential score boost may outweigh any edge you could gain by applying early.  When making a final decision on this one, ask yourself these questions: According to the data on the school’s website, how much easier is it to get into this school if I apply EA/ED than if I apply through regular admissions?  Am I a viable applicant for this school with my current scores?  If I delay my application, do I have the time and energy to devote myself to prepping for the test before December?

Can I expect my scores to increase by December?

Here again, it depends. We pulled the SAT results for thousands of our students from the database, and here’s what we found:  between a student’s baseline SAT and his or her first actual test post-prep, s/he can expect an average increase of 140 points.  The average increase between that test and the second test post-prep is approximately 50 points, and the same is also true of the average increase between the second and third tests post-prep.  The results drop off some by a student’s fourth post-prep test, with an average increase of only 20 points.  After that, most student scores flat-line.  We did have one exceptional student go up 150 points on his sixth SAT, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

So, can you expect your scores to increase by December?  If you’ve already taken the test four times, worked with a tutor, completed all of your SAT/ACT homework, and attended several mock tests, maybe not.  If you know that between now and the beginning of December, you have play rehearsal every night until 6 pm, tennis practice until 9, and five weekend trips planned, maybe not.  If, however, you’ve only taken the test a couple of times and can commit to spending a few hours each week studying, you could see considerable gains in the next month.

When do I need to decide if I want to take the December test?

The sooner, the better!  For one thing, you’ll want as much time as possible to prepare.  For another, the test registration deadlines are coming up quickly. The SAT and ACT are December 1 and December 8, respectively, and Regular Registration closes November 1 for the SAT and November 2 for the ACT.  You can register late for either test until November 16, but you’ll pay more if you do.  You can register for the SAT at www.collegeboard.org, and you can register for the ACT at www.actstudent.org.

Remember, standardized test scores are only one part of your college application.  Colleges will also consider your high school GPA, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and personal essays.   When deciding whether or not to register for the December tests, look at your entire application package.  If you think a boost in scores will help and you are prepared to put in the work it will take to increase them, go for it.

Applerouth Tutoring Services has helped thousands of students increase their scores on the SAT or ACT.  For information about our services, call one of our success coaches at 866-789-PREP.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or info@applerouth.com.