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Why SAT SuperScoring means you should retake the SAT.

Posted by Dr. Fred Zhang | Jun 17, 2014 4:04:00 PM

SAT Strategies


In this article, PrepScholar cofounder and statistics expert Dr. Fred Zhang explains why the SAT superscoring means you can get huge points by retaking the SAT.  Many of you know that colleges often take the best SAT score in each section, but do you know how much you can gain by just a re-take?  Do you know how to do your retake to max your score?



Many students know about the Superscore concept in the SAT: the fact that many colleges only look at the best score in each section in admissions. For example, suppose you take the SAT twice with the following outcomes:

  Test Date     Math Score    Reading Score     Writing Score    Total  
 March 620 600 760  1980
 October 740 720 610  2070
 SuperScore 740  720 760  2220

Even though you only increased your session SAT score from a 1980 to a 2070, and improvement of 90 points, your SuperScore increased by 240 points.  I will tell you why this is incredibly important to your test taking strategy!

More Times Matters

Because you are getting the maximum of your SAT score over multiple sessions, then it is clear that the more often you take it, the higher your maximum score will be.  Imagine if you were running a 100-meter dash, but only your best time mattered -- doesn't it make sense to run it more than once.

Variation Matters

When you retake the test, besides trying to do well, you also want to try to increase the randomness of your score -- what statisticians call variance.  The more varied your score is, the more likely your superscore is higher.  

This is actually quite subtle, so I'll repeat it again.  Even if your score stays the same, you want to increase variation.  For example, suppose your last SAT Math score was 600, which one of the below strategies would you take:

A) A strategy that gives you a 50% chance of getting a 590 and a 50% chance of 610.

B) A strategy that gives you a 50% chance of a 500 and a 50% chance of a 700.

Take a moment to think about this.  Done?  

If you chose B, you're correct!  With the superscore, you care about only the upside, not the downside.  The 50% chance of a 700 means much more than the 50% chance of a 610.

How much can you gain?

College Board has released thorough data about student score improvements between different tests.  The key data: College Board shows that re-taking the test results in a variation of about 50.86 points in each section -- that's a huge amount of natural variation!  

It also means that riding off of this variation alone, I used Monte-Carlo simulation to prove that if you go from taking the SAT once to taking it twice, your superscore will go up in expectancy by 78 points!  

Supercharge the Superscore

Okay, so that's awesome, but can you improve on that more?  Yes!  PrepScholar's training includes SAT test taking strategy as an important component of the prep process.  Using our strategies, we'll show you how to increase the variation so your expected point increase is even higher, up to 100 points plus!

And this is based on pure variation -- we also train you so your raw expected score goes up as well.  With the two components combined, you can achieve hundreds of points of improvement.

But the base story still holds: variation means you should take the SAT multiple times if you have the chance, and you should increase your test variation.


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Dr. Fred Zhang
About the Author

Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.

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