While people associate the SAT with high school students, there are several reasons someone may need or want to take the SAT after high school. But can you take the SAT after high school? Absolutely! I took the SAT this past year as an adult and will be taking it again this May.
In this guide, I’ll cover the reasons you may want to take the SAT as an adult, how to register, how testing is different as an adult, and more advice.
Why Might You Want to Take the SAT as an Adult?
Taking the SAT is time-consuming and requires preparation. You shouldn’t put yourself through it if you don’t have to. However, there are three good reasons you may need to take the SAT after high school.
#1: Applying to College
Did you take a few years off after high school before applying to college and never take the SAT? If so, you will likely need to take the SAT or ACT for your college applications. Did you take a few years off after high school before applying to college, but you took the SAT during high school? If you took the SAT during high school, you might not need to retake it.
Your SAT scores are stored indefinitely by the College Board. However, some colleges require an SAT score from the last 3-5 years. Make sure to check each college’s application requirements (I’ll dive into how to locate this later).
Also, even if you did take the SAT during high school, you may want to re-take it to improve your score. To give yourself the best chance of admission, you should try to get your SAT score at or above the 75th percentile SAT score of admitted students. I’ll touch on this in the advice section, but I highly recommend you read our guide to finding your target score for more information about this.
Not all colleges require you to send a test score. Some schools allow exceptions for those who never took the SAT in high school or for whom taking the SAT now would be excessively difficult. For example, if you are in the army and deployed abroad, you may be permitted to forgo taking the SAT. Some schools are test-optional or test-blind, so they do not require you to send SAT scores. If you’re only applying to test-optional or test-blind schools, then you do not need to take the SAT.
Make sure to check out the admissions website for each of your target colleges to find out their application requirements. You should be able to find the admissions website by doing a Google search for “[College Name] admissions website.” On their admissions website, most colleges list the application requirements (and whether they require an SAT test). If you’re unable to find this information on their website, you should send an email or call the admissions office.
#2: Applying to Transfer Colleges
If you’re applying to transfer colleges either from a community college or 4-year university to a 4-year university, you may need to submit an SAT or ACT score with your application. If you are applying to transfer after spending only six months to a year at a college or community college, you'll likely need to submit an SAT or ACT score with your application. If you took the SAT or ACT during high school, you likely could use that score.
However, you may want to re-test to improve your score to improve your chances of admission. You want your SAT score to be at or above the 75th percentile SAT score of admitted students to have the best chance of being admitted. I’ll talk about this more in the advice section, but I suggest you read our article about how to find your target score for more advice.
As I said in the applying to college section above, you will not need to submit an SAT or ACT score if you’re only applying to test-optional or test-blind schools.
Check the admissions website for each of the schools that you’re applying to to find out their application requirements. You can find the admissions website by doing a Google search for “[College Name] admissions website.” On their admissions website, most colleges list their application requirements including whether they require an SAT test. If you’re unable to find this information on their website, you should send an email or call the admissions office.
#3: Applying for a Job or Scholarship
Occasionally job applications require you to submit an SAT score, especially if you are trying to work in the education world. Additionally, some scholarships require you to score within a certain range. If you took the test in high school, you could submit those scores, but if you didn’t or if you need to improve your score to qualify, you’ll have to take the test now as an adult.
Make sure that for your job or scholarship you adhere to their requirements. Some may ask for a high school SAT score and may not consider a new score. Know the requirements, and if you’re unsure, call or email to clarify.
Logistics of Taking the SAT After High School
Now that we know the reasons you may want to take the SAT post high school, I’ll guide you through the steps of how to take the SAT after high school.
How to Register as a High School Graduate
You can register on the College Board’s website or by mail. Registering will involve entering your personal information, submitting a photo or yourself, paying the registration fee, etc.
Registering for the SAT can be slightly more challenging as an adult since the process is geared towards high school students. However, it's not too difficult: there are only some minor inconveniences. The College Board asks for parent information, but you can leave that blank. Also, it asks for your high school, but there is an option to say "I am not in high school." Otherwise, answer the rest of the questions to the best of your ability. Check out our full guide to registering for step-by-step assistance with the SAT registration process.
Where to Take the SAT After High School
You’ll be taking the test at an SAT test center with high school students. Test centers are typically high schools but are sometimes located on community college campuses, college campuses, and other locations. No matter your location, you’ll be testing with high school students.
During your registration process, you’ll select your test center location. You’ll be able to search for one close to you. NOTE: the earlier you register, the more likely you’ll be able to test near your home. Closer to the registration deadline, test centers fill up, and you might end up testing farther from your home. Sign up early!
How Testing As an Adult Is Different
The biggest difference is the requirements for your personal identification and the difficulty of getting on the test waitlist. However, these requirements only apply to test-takers 21 and over. If you’re under 21, you can skip this section as it does not apply.
NOTE: The College Board has suspended the SAT waitlist at least through the 2022-2023 school year. This means that the late registration deadline is the final day to register for the SAT. Registering later than that is not possible. For updates on when the College Board reinstates the SAT waitlist, check our SAT waitlist article.
If you're 21 or older, you cannot use a student ID for admission on test day. You are required to bring an official, government-issued identification, such as a driver's license or passport.
Additionally, if you’re 21 or older, you can’t be placed on an SAT testing waitlist. The College Board simply doesn’t allow it. Heed my earlier advice and sign up early (or at least on time), so you avoid this issue.
SAT testing is also a little different now from what you may remember. The College Board created a newly redesigned 2016 SAT (the first test was in March 2016). I highly recommend you read our other article which summarizes all the changes. I’ll provide a very brief summary of the changes.
The test is now graded from 400-1600 (instead of 800-2400). The essay is now optional (though it is required by most colleges). The Reading and Writing have been combined into one section score. Sentence-completion questions have been eliminated; all questions are passage-based. The Math section has changed the content slightly: less focus on geometry, more focus on algebra, and added trigonometry and imaginary number questions. Also, there is now a math section that doesn’t allow a calculator, so you have to do mental math.
The test may not be what you remember if you took it in high school.
In addition, taking the SAT as an adult can be awkward. I took the SAT last year at age 23; it was definitely weird at first. When you show up to check in among high school students, you'll feel the strangeness.
Once I got over the initial weirdness, I felt confident. In high school, I was so nervous to take the SAT because I felt there was so much pressure riding on the test. As an adult, you realize that one test will not define you. I was able to relax more and do better on the test due to my newfound confidence. I hope you feel the same when you sit for the SAT!
Ready set study for the SAT!
Advice for Taking the SAT as an Adult
Don’t underestimate the SAT. Yes, it tests high school content, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy for you. In fact, there are probably some high school fundamental topics that you’ve forgotten or are a little rusty on. If you haven’t studied Math since high school, you might have forgotten the trigonometry formulas or the rules of absolute value. Even though you might be well beyond high school, you still need to prepare for the SAT.
3 Tips for Studying for the SAT as an Adult
Take your test preparation seriously. Dedicate time to it.
Tip #1: Learn the SAT Format
You’ll find the SAT wants you to think pretty literally on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. Most answers are pulled directly from the text without interpretation. However, the Math section requires you to be more creative in your application of math. You’ll need to apply basic math in new and unique ways.
Tip #2: Refresh Yourself on Forgotten/Rusty Topics
As I mentioned, you may have forgotten or gotten rusty in some areas. You need to refresh yourself on these content areas in order to succeed on the SAT. We’ve got complete guides for nearly every tested area on the SAT. Read our guides to refresh yourself.
Tip #3: Plan Your Prep and Testing Based on Your Needs
One of the hardest parts of taking the SAT as an adult is juggling work, family, friends, etc. while trying to dedicate time to studying. However, you need to prepare to reach your target score.
I’d recommend you start studying far in advance (3-6 months in advance). Check your calendar and pick an SAT test date that will give you enough time to prepare. If you don’t have that luxury and need to take the test in the next month, check out our guide to cramming for the SAT.
Transferring colleges? Check out our complete guide to transferring successfully.
Need help paying for college? Read our scholarship and financial aid guides.
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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.