What to Do if Your SAT Score is Lower Than Expected

test prep

In the game of life, sometimes things don't go as expected—and that's okay. If you took the SAT, received a lower score than anticipated and aren't sure where to turn, the tips in this post can provide some guidance.

Post-SAT Pointers

Are you worried about a lower-than-expected SAT score and how it might affect your chances of being accepted to the college(s) of your choice? First, that's totally understandable, and second, you're certainly not the only one! Because the SAT is one of the most widely recognized standardized tests used to measure college readiness, it's easy to see why you might be concerned if you didn't perform as well as you originally hoped.

Fortunately, a subpar SAT score doesn't automatically mean it's the end of the road to college. Here are some pointers on what to do next if your SAT score is lower than expected.

worried student

1. Figure Out Where You Went Wrong

First thing's first. To get a clear picture of what went wrong when you took the SAT, you'll have to do a little investigating. The College Board, the organization that oversees the SAT, has a service that allows you to verify your scores and answers for up to five months after you take the test. This verification service tells you exactly which types of questions you got wrong as well as the difficulty of all of the questions on the test. Once you know this information, you can take the next step towards achieving a better SAT score.

student studying for SAT

2. Study Your Heart Out

After you've determined which SAT questions you answered incorrectly the first time around, you can begin to focus your study efforts on any specific areas of weakness. There are several user-friendly SAT prep courses available online that focus on the individual sections of the test as well as the test as a whole. These courses feature engaging video lessons that help you ''get it'' and self-assessment quizzes that measure your proficiency. With this type of help, you should be able to prepare yourself for round two quicker than you might imagine.

student using computer to study

3. Retake the Test

As you probably know, most students take the SAT during their junior year of high school, which gives them time to retake it later that year or during their senior year if need be. You can decide to register for another try as soon as you receive your first score, or, if time permits, you can register when you feel like you're better prepared. You must remember, though, that there are deadlines to meet as far as registering goes, so don't wait until the last minute and risk not being able to retake this important test.

The good news is that according to The College Board, 67% of students who retake the SAT do better their second time. Pretty encouraging if you ask me!

Tips for Success

Even though you've already taken the SAT, there are some worthwhile tips to keep in mind for your second go-round:

  • Prepare yourself the night before the test. Pack a bag with everything you'll need, including a valid photo ID, sharpened pencils with proper erasers, your admission ticket, and an SAT-approved calculator. You might want to throw in a bottle of water and a healthy snack or two to refuel during your break as well.
  • Get a good night's rest. Tired, foggy brains aren't a sufficient match for the in-depth material covered on the SAT.
  • Eat a nutritionally sound breakfast to give your body and brain the energy they need to power through the test.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the testing center to avoid rushing and/or being late.
  • If you begin to feel anxious or stressed during the SAT, take a minute to do some deep breathing exercises and encourage yourself to move on.

students taking the SAT

Final Takeaways

As you've learned here, an SAT score that's lower than expected doesn't necessarily mean that you're doomed. By taking the steps we've highlighted today, you should be able to get a better score the second time you take it, and if not, there's always the possibility of a third (or fourth!) chance if time permits.

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By Erin Riskey
September 2018

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