Test Prep Guide: A Guide to Sending Scores

Many families ask us about sending scores, and how it relates to the number of tests a student should take, when, and who sees them. Here are some answers to your most popular questions:

How many tests should I take?

Each test has a slightly different concentration of certain topics and a different scale. Maximize scores and decrease the “Super Bowl” effect of one test date being “the one” by taking the test at least twice.

Do I have to send all my scores?

Many schools let students choose, but some do require you to send all your scores. The list of schools that ask for all SAT Scores is here, while the all-ACT-score info is on each school’s website (here is a sampling of those schools).

This is an honor system: Colleges cannot tell if you do not send all your scores. The SAT offers Score Choice, which allows students to select which scores to send from one or more test dates, while the ACT sends individual reports for each test date requested. Ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility to comply with this honor system. That being said, it is a common misconception that sending multiple sets of scores looks bad. There are a few reasons why that can actually be to a student’s benefit!

Super Scoring:

Many colleges look at your best section scores from multiple tests, and use them to form your highest “combined” score. It helps them advocate for you, and it makes their median score statistics look good. The schools that officially Super Score can be found here for the SAT andhere for the ACT.

Demonstrated Improvement/Investment:

If you made big improvements over multiple test dates, it’s good for schools to see that progression, especially if your final score is still lower than you would like. Similarly, you should consider sending multiple scores if you’re in the lower acceptance range and didn’t improve much; it shows you are invested in the process. If you submit only one score, the school might ask: if they scored a 29 the first time and our median score is a 31, why didn’t they try again?

When should I NOT send multiple sets of scores?

If you have taken the test more than three times, you should not send all your scores unless the school requires it. Many test administrations suggest the student is potentially unfocused and/or is receiving excessive preparation. If your scores show a significant downward trend, that also creates a question mark for schools. Try to submit scores that show improvement, at least across individual sections.

Above all, remember that test scores are only part of the college admissions process, and they represent a way to get the admissions office to look at the rest of your application more than anything else. As evidenced by the recent report from Harvard discussed above, a personality and community engagement are increasingly important parts of the evaluation process. Study hard, take the tests when you’re ready, and don’t worry too much about multiple score reports edging out your dream school!