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What Is SAT Score Choice? Why Should You Care?

Posted by Rebecca Safier | Jul 10, 2015 9:00:00 AM

SAT Strategies

 

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College Board's SAT Score Choice policy, started in 2009, means just what it sounds like. Well, you can't choose your scores - "I'll take a 2400, please!" - but you can choose which score reports you send to colleges. If you take the SAT more than once, then you can decide which scores get sent and which ones remain for your eyes only.

Since we're always thinking strategically when it comes to the SAT, this article will discuss not just how Score Choice works, but also how you can use it to your advantage. First, what exactly is SAT Score Choice?

  

What Is SAT Score Choice?

If you're a high schooler taking the SAT, it's probably safe to assume you're applying to college. Part of your application is sending your SAT score reports, which is done through your College Board account. The Score Choice option lets you choose which score reports get sent and which ones don't. 

You can choose a score report by test date, or by individual test for an SAT Subject Test. You can't choose individual sections, like just sending your math score from January and your Reading and Writing scores from April, for example. Many colleges superscore your SAT, or take your highest section scores across all test dates, anyway, so this shouldn't cause much concern. 

If your schools have a policy of superscoring the SAT, is there any reason to use Score Choice and leave some score reports out? I'd say probably not, unless you have one that's a real outlier, like you were sick that day or performed way below the level you expected to.

If you think it could look bad to admissions officers, then you might use Score Choice to leave that score report out. If you don't elect to use Score Choice, then College Board will send all your available scores to the colleges you listed as score recipients.

Before this policy was implemented in 2009, students had no option of leaving out score reports. Sounds stressful, right? According to College Board, Score Choice is meant to reduce stress, improve the test day experience, and give students more control over their test results.

I suspect that College Board is also trying to remain competitive with its ever more popular counterpart, the ACT, which has always allowed students to choose which score reports to send by test date. While I touched upon the logistics of this option already, let's look in more detail at exactly how SAT Score Choice works when you're sending your scores to colleges.

 

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The College Board carrier pigeons are ready at your command.

 

How Does Score Choice Work?

Your College Board account is your one stop to register for the SAT, view your scores, and send your score reports. When you register for the SAT, you can add four score recipients for free. You can edit these up to 9 days after your registration. After that, additional colleges cost $11.25, unless you qualify for an SAT fee waiver.

If you've taken the SAT more than once, then you can use Score Choice to decide which score reports go to which colleges. You'll see a screen that looks something like this:

 

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If you don't use Score Choice, then College Board will send all your scores to the schools you indicate. There is one important limitation of Score Choice to be aware of when you're listing out your score recipients. 

 

Limitation of SAT Score Choice

As I mentioned above, you can list up to 4 score recipients for free when you register for the SAT or for up to 9 days after. That means the scores from your future test, which you won't have taken yet, will be automatically sent to those 4 schools.

Unfortunately, you can't sign in and cancel those score reports if you're disappointed with your scores, since they'll be sent to your colleges at pretty much the same time they become available to you, about three weeks after you test.

If you want to see those scores before they're sent off to admissions officers and have the financial means to do, then you might consider forgoing those 4 free score reports. Of course, this is only a possibility if you have enough time before your deadlines to receive your scores before sending them.

If you want total control over which score reports get sent, then you might not want to use the 4 free score reports at the time of registration. While College Board offers Score Choice to improve the test day experience for students, sadly not all colleges are so amenable.

There are some schools that are strongly anti-Score Choice. Before using it, make sure you research your schools' policies toward SAT scores.

 

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Know Your Colleges' SAT Score Policies

Not all colleges look at your SAT scores in exactly the same way. Some colleges, like Brown, Columbia, Harvard, University of Connecticut, and University of Virginia, superscore your test and take your highest section scores across all test dates. If your colleges superscore, then there might not be much reason to use Score Choice, unless you had a really off test day and wanted to keep that score report private.

Other schools, like Arizona State, Colorado State, and University of Wisconsin, will look at your "highest sitting," meaning they won't take a math score from one date and a reading score from another. If this is the case, then you might use Score Choice to just send the score report from your best test date.

Regardless of whether they have a superscoring or "highest sitting" policy, some of these schools tell you not to use Score Choice and to send all your available scores. For instance, Cornell says it "requires students to submit all scores from SAT tests taken and does not participate in the College Board's Score Choice."

Stanford has the same policy, which it extends to the ACT, as well: "Applicants may not use the College Board's Score Choice feature or "hide" any scores with either testing agency." While College Board has done its part to improve the test day experience and give students more control over their test scores, unfortunately not all colleges are on board.

Some other schools that have a "send all scores" policy are Duke, University of Pennsylvania, and Rice University. While these schools technically can't stop you from using Score Choice, they consider it a matter of integrity and honesty in your application that you'll abide by their policies.

Before using Score Choice, make sure you research your colleges' policies towards SAT scores and score reporting so you know whether you should or are even allowed to use Score Choice. If you can't find this information on their admissions website, you can call an admissions office directly and ask what their stance is on SAT scores and College Board's Score Choice.

Besides allowing you to leave out SAT scores that you don't think are up to par, does SAT Score Choice have any other advantages for students? Actually, it could affect how you prep and when you take the SAT. 

 

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What Does SAT Score Choice Mean to You?

Having the option of SAT Score Choice is another good reason to take the SAT more than once. Students almost always improve when they retake the SAT, especially if they do focused test prep on their areas of weakness between tests.

Some students even take advantage of superscoring policies to build up a high composite score section by section. With this strategy, you might prep intensively for math before one test date, for reading for the next, and for writing for the third date. This approach could help focus your studying, reduce pressure, and maximize your overall scores to a higher peak than you could reach on any one single test date. 

Even with the option of leaving some score reports out, I wouldn't recommend taking the SAT any more than 5 or 6 times. The time and money spent on all these official tests could probably be better spent on test prep. If you're studying effectively, then you should be able to achieve your target scores within 6 tests. If not, you would probably be better served by adjusting your approach to test prep than by taking the SAT one more time. 

Of course, not every student has the luxury of time nor money to retake the SAT this many times. In a sense, Score Choice favors those who can afford multiple test dates and prep materials. While it's a policy that works in students' advantage, it also could be viewed partly as one more way that students from higher socio-economic backgrounds have an advantage when it comes to achieving strong SAT scores for their college applications. 

SAT Score Choice is a great option if you have a fluke testing day or scores you'd rather not share with admissions officers. It's another good reason to take the SAT multiple times, if you have the time and means to do so. While it may or may not impact your testing strategy, let's sum up the major takeaways you can gather from this SAT Score Choice policy.

 

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Takeaways of SAT Score Choice

  • SAT Score Choice lets you choose which scores to send to colleges by test date at no extra cost.
  • You can customize your score reporting to each individual college you're applying to.
  • Make sure to research your colleges' policies, so you know if they superscore, taking the highest sitting, and/or require you to send all your scores.
  • Retaking the SAT (if possible) is a very good idea, especially since Score Choice allows you to pick and choose which scores to send to colleges. 


If you're strategic about your testing plan and schedule, then you can use these policies to your advantage and earn strong SAT scores. Plus, you can breathe easy if you happen to have an off day or don't achieve the scores you want the first time around. As the old saying goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! And then use SAT Score Choice."

 

What's Next?

For the full list of colleges that superscore the SAT, check out our complete guide here. You can also see all the schools that require you to send all your scores. For whatever reason, they're not big fans of SAT Score Choice.

Are you deciding when to take the SAT for the first time (or second or third)? Read about how to choose your test dates and schedule your test prep around your testing plan. 

 

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Rebecca Safier
About the Author

Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.



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