How Many Times Should You Take a Standardized Test?
Many college-bound sophomores, juniors and even seniors will be taking a standardized tests that counts for the first time. A few will score so well, they will not need to take that test again.
Most others will likely need to take it at least once more. But how many times is enough?
The answer: it depends.
If you are aiming for anything that requires a minimum score, and you have the grades to qualify, you will need to attain or exceed that score.
In some cases, such as these below, there are usually no exceptions, until colleges make new decisions in light of COVID-19 considerations. :
- Bachelors/MD: Accelerated and Assured Admissions Programs
- Accelerated or assured admissions programs to other graduate and professional schools
- Honors Colleges at larger schools
- Scholarships offered by the college, the military or private and non-profit organizations
Visit the admissions Web pages at the most selective colleges, even those that have decided to go test optional
You will likely see that they do not have “minimum cut-off” standardized test scores for admissions. Speak to their admissions officers. They will not discourage your application. But they should also tell you the scores for the middle 50 percent of the last freshman class. Low test scores or no test scores by themselves will not get you denied. But low or no scores and a second weakness might.
Can you find information on how students tested at your target school?
If you high school uses Naviance or another student information system, you should be able to view scattergrams by school. These should show, year by year, how students fared in admissions, mapped by grades and test scores.
The flagship public university in your state will likely have a wide range for the middle 50 percent of a freshman class. Rutgers-New Brunswick, for example, had a range between 1190 and 1410 for the class that arrived on campus last year. Rutgers also reports these ranges for each undergraduate school within the university. The 1190 SAT that helped get a student into the Mason Gross School of the Arts is not likely to be high enough to be admitted into the engineering school or the pharmacy school. The Mason Gross applicant was also considered for their artistic talents. Applicants to the business, engineering and pharmacy schools needed to have high math scores. A low score and a second weakness might get you denied at one school within a larger university, but not hurt your application to another.
Could colleges penalize you for taking a test too many times?
It depends. The most selective schools will not necessary penalize you for taking several tests. But you could compare unfavorably versus your peers who needed to take the standardized test only once or twice. A special talent may help if you have turned out to be very special.
A very large public school such as Rutgers will not penalize you if you take the ACT or SAT several times to attain the score that you need, as long as your academic record meets their expectations. Your extracurricular resume could put the odds in your favor if it supports your academic interests or has nurtured a very special talent.
What should you do if you don’t score well on a standardized test the first-and maybe the only time?
Again, it depends on where you want to go to college as well as your intended major, and if you are aiming for admissions to a school or program that requires a minimum score. The schools of business, engineering, health professions at many colleges will expect a higher math score than they would for other majors. In these cases it would be wise to work with a tutor and prepare to take the test again. Make sure that you login to the portal for the ACT or the College Board and show the tutor the sections where you struggled on the test. Learn to do better to conquer your weaknesses. Most important, take practice tests under simulated testing conditions.
Is it possible to find schools that are test-optional that will consider you for admissions?
Yes, but you need to make sure that you have the academic record to qualify for admission. Opt to go test optional and you need to show strengths that offset the lack of test scores. You might need to submit graded papers or answer optional essay questions. Artistic applicants might need to audition or submit a portfolio. Take away scores and the rest of your application becomes more important, especially your transcript and essays.
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