Many students assume colleges will see every score they’ve earned on the SAT and ACT when they apply.
However, while some top-tier schools do require your full testing histories, many don’t. Some even allow score choice for the SAT, which allows you to send only the scores you want them to see, or they allow you to pick your best ACT test date.
If you’re aiming for a top-tier school like an Ivy League, Stanford, or MIT, read this guide to learn how they evaluate standardized tests to help you best prepare.
What's in This Guide
We’re dividing this list of prestigious schools into two categories: colleges that require you to send all scores, and colleges that do not. We are including quotations from their admissions websites about not just their policies on multiple scores, but how they evaluate multiple test scores in general. We will also link to each school's admissions website so you can read more in-depth about their policies.
We will also highlight colleges that specifically allow for College Board's Score Choice (or the ACT’s similar option). Plus, we will include application tips for the two categories to help you create a smart test-taking strategy.
Colleges in Guide
- Brown University
- Columbia University
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth College
- Duke University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Princeton University
- Stanford University
- University of California System
- University of Chicago
- University of Pennsylvania
- Vanderbilt University
- Yale University
Colleges That Require You to Send All Scores
These are colleges that require you to send your full testing history (sometimes called "testing record"), either for the ACT or SAT. Some colleges even require your testing history from both tests. Even though colleges often say they will “focus” on the highest score, colleges that require all scores will take each score they receive into consideration.Also, there is one school on this list that requires all SAT scores but not all ACT scores. However, we are keeping it in this category since they have a strict SAT policy.
"Note that Cornell requires students to submit all scores from SAT tests taken and does not participate in the College Board’s Score Choice."
If you're applying to Cornell and you've taken the SAT, you have to submit all of your scores. However, their website doesn't say anything about the ACT. When I called to clarify, I was told that you do not have to send all ACT score dates. So for Cornell, SAT-takers need to send all results, while ACT-takers can choose which date to send. If Cornell is one of your top schools, you might consider taking the ACT since you will have more flexibility when it comes time to send your scores.
University of California System
"In the College Board's Score Choice module, ensure that all scores are sent to UC. We require all scores and will use the highest scores from a single administration. For the ACT with Writing test, we will focus on the highest combined score from the same test administration."
This means if you're applying to any schools in the UC system (these include Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Davis), you can pick between the SAT or ACT, but you must send all scores you have for either test.
"Applicants who have taken the SAT or ACT exam multiple times should report all scores from whichever test they choose to report. Applicants who choose to report scores from both the SAT and ACT should report all scores received on both tests....When assessing SAT results, admissions officers will focus on the highest individual section scores from all test dates. For example, if an applicant took the SAT twice, the highest Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math scores will be considered individually. When assessing ACT results, admissions officers focus on the highest ACT Composite from all test dates while also considering individual ACT subscores."
Yale is more lenient, in that if you take both the SAT or ACT, you can choose which test to send. But whichever test you pick, you have to send all of your scores. They will also superscore the results of whichever exam you decide to submit; however, remember that they will see all your scores, even if "officially" they only use the highest score from each section.
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Strategy for “All Scores” Schools
While we never recommend taking the ACT or SAT until you are confident you will get your target score—either for the first time or on a retake—you need to be especially careful about retakes if any of the above schools are top choices for you.
In particular, do not take the ACT or SAT once “for practice” before studying for a higher score on a retake. These colleges will see that lower “practice score" and take it into consideration.
Instead, make full-length, strictly-timed practice tests an important part of your study regimen, so you have a more confident idea of what your score will turn out to be before you take the ACT/SAT for the first time.
Also, be careful about retaking the SAT/ACT with the goal of improving one of the sections. For example, if you got a low Critical Reading score the first time around on the SAT, don’t exclusively study for CR before your retake. If your other scores (Math and Writing) go down by a lot, that could make for a lower composite score the second time, which doesn't look great.
You should also be careful of retaking the SAT or ACT more than three times, since again, they will see every score date and it won’t look good if your scores don’t improve markedly.
Some final bits of advice: if you’re taking the SAT, take the PSAT during your sophomore year so you can get real, scored SAT practice before you take the SAT. And if you’re taking the ACT, keep in mind you have the option of deleting records from a particular test date. You can't send scores that no longer exist!
Colleges That Don't Require All Scores
Colleges that don’t require all scores to be sent often have admission policies in place in which they only consider the highest scores, either from a single test date or by superscoring. This is why they don’t require all scores—because they won’t consider the lowest ones anyway.
Many of these colleges also accept College Board's Score Choice feature, which allows you to pick and choose which scores to send. (Read more about Score Choice here.) ACT doesn't have Score Choice, but it does allow you to pick which test date to send.
You can put your best scores forward at "score choice" schools.
By the way, "superscoring" means combining the best section results from different test dates to create your highest possible composite score. Many of the schools on this list superscore for the SAT, however, for the ACT, it's more common to just look at the highest composite score.
"We accept Score Choice. We will super score within both current and redesigned SAT, but will not super score using results from both versions of the test. For the ACT, we consider the highest scores submitted for each section; however, we do not calculate a super scored ACT Composite score."
If you take the SAT more than once, Brown will automatically consider your highest section scores (provided all scores are from either the old or the redesigned SAT), but you may also use Score Choice to decide which scores to submit. For the ACT, they will focus on the highest score for each section, but won't calculate a "superscored" composite. You can choose your best ACT test date(s) to send with that in mind.
"Applicants may select the Score Choice option for the SAT or choose to submit specific ACT composite scores....When evaluating applicants, we consider only the highest testing results reported from individual sections of the SAT or the highest composite score on the ACT."
Columbia's policy is very similar to Brown's. You can use Score Choice for the SAT or pick your best ACT composite to submit.
"Dartmouth does permit the use of Score Choice....We consider the highest component scores from the SAT, even if these results are from different dates. For the ACT, the committee considers the highest composite score and does not combine sub-scores from multiple test dates. We don’t recommend excessive testing."
Like fellow Ivies Brown and Columbia, they will look at the highest SAT sections from different dates but only the highest ACT composite.
"Students who have taken multiple tests may choose which scores to send to Duke. For students who elect to send multiple test scores Duke will use whichever score is highest."
For Duke, you have total control over what scores to send! And if you do send multiple scores, they will use whichever score is best. This is actually a recent change to their policy—they used to require all scores.
“You are free to use the College Board’s Score Choice option or the similar option offered by ACT when applying to Harvard.”
Harvard doesn't say they automatically focus on the highest scores if they get more than one SAT score or ACT score. However, they do say "we do not admit by the numbers" and "we take into account your educational background when reviewing scores." This is part of holistic application review, trying to take into account the whole applicant. Still, Harvard is one of the most competitive schools in the country, so we suggest putting your best scores forward either with Score Choice or by sending your best ACT test date.
“Students are free to use the College Board's Score Choice option and the ACT's option to submit the scores of your choice.”
MIT does say that they superscore test results, so Score Choice can be a bit redundant. They even superscores across the the old and new SAT, which is unusual. They superscore the ACT as well, saying that they "consider the highest score achieved in each section" for both the SAT and ACT. This means if you have taken the ACT more than once, and your best section scores are spread out between test dates, it might be more advantageous to send all your ACT dates so MIT will superscore them.
"We allow applicants to use the score choice feature of both the SAT and ACT, but we encourage the submission of all test scores."
Like the other Ivies in this section, Princeton is fine with College Board's Score Choice and its ACT equivalent.
"We recommend that you simply self-report your highest scores in the testing section of the application. You can also have official scores sent to Stanford, but this is not required for us to review your application. If you are offered admission and choose to enroll, official scores that match your self-reported scores will be required. In order for test scores to be considered official, they must be sent directly from the College Board or the ACT."
Stanford allows for Score Choice, and it also superscores for both the SAT and the ACT.
University of Chicago
"If you have chosen to submit SAT or ACT test scores, we recommend you send us all of your test scores. Only your best testing results—your highest sub-scores and the best result of the two testing options, if you've taken both the SAT and ACT— will be considered in the review of your application. Lower test scores submitted will not be used in the review of your application."
UChicago doesn't forbid Score Choice, but they do recommend you send all of your scores, since they only look at the highest ones.
University of Pennsylvania
“Although we permit Score Choice, we do encourage students to submit their entire testing history on both ACT and SAT exams.”
Much like Dartmouth and Princeton, UPenn allows you to send whichever scores you like, but prefers you send them all. It's also worth noting that they superscore for both the SAT and ACT, so you will often benefit from sending multiple scores.
" Only your highest [SAT] section scores will be considered as part of the final admissions decision...We will treat ACT scores in the way as what we're describing here with the SAT Reasoning (i.e., considering only the highest composite ACT score in our final admissions decisions). The only difference between the two is that we do not "super-score" the ACT, whereas we do with the SAT Reasoning."
So for the SAT, even though Vanderbilt encourages you to send all scores, they don't require if. For the ACT, they're more flexible. Since they will only look at the highest composite score, you can just submit your highest ACT composite.
Strategy for Score Choice Schools
Unlike the “all scores” schools, you are free to send scores from one test date for the ACT or use score choice to combine scores from multiple dates for the SAT.
This means there is less pressure to get a super high composite each time you take the SAT – so if you need to, you could go into a retake aiming for a better math score and not worry too much about Critical Reading and Writing. You also don’t need to stress out about only testing two or three times because you won’t have to send each test date (though still, if you’re studying carefully, you shouldn’t have to retake the SAT or ACT more than two or three times).
Basically, for the SAT, your goal should be to create the single highest composite you can, and not worry as much about some of your lower scores.
However, for the ACT, it's important to note that while some schools (MIT and UChicago) will superscore the ACT, most schools are just looking at the highest overall composite. So you don't have to worry about retaking the ACT, since you only have to send your highest composite to these schools. However, it does mean each time you take the ACT, you need to study all sections to maximize your final composite (the ACT's composite is averaged, so a lower section could drag down your composite).
So how high should your SAT/ACT scores be for the Ivy League, anyway? See our guide to which scores will get you in—and which ones are too low.
We also have a guide to SAT Subject Test scores for the Ivy League. Don’t consider these an afterthought!
Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
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Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.