SAT Q&A: Scores and Score Choice

We’ve had many questions over the years about SAT score reporting policies and more recently the Score Choice policies. Hopefully this will shed some light on these policies and help make the testing and application process a little less of a mystery.

How does SAT score reporting typically work?

When you register for the SAT you have the option of reporting your score to up to four schools or scholarship programs for free. You have up until nine days after test day to change schools or decide to not send your scores to any schools at all. After the 9 days, you have to pay a per school reporting fee of $10. If you receive fee waivers, you can use those waivers for up to 8 free score reports at any point during exam registration or afterwards.

Most college bound students will take the SAT once in the spring of the Junior year (March or May) and then again in the fall of the Senior year (October is best, November is an option). For each administration of the SAT scores are returned to the student and sent to colleges about 3 – 4 weeks after the test date (you can see the score release dates here).

How do colleges and universities treat multiple SAT scores?

Colleges are typically looking for reasons to admit candidates not reasons to reject them. So most often they look at test scores in ways that benefit you. The three most common ways schools evaluate scores are:

  1. Highest sitting – schools consider the best overall score to be your score
  2. Highest sections – schools consider the best subsection (M, CR, or W) to be your best score regardless of sitting
  3. All Sittings – schools consider all sittings and all scores

Let’s look at what this means. Consider the test history below of high school senior Curva Belle:

Sitting Math Critical Reading Writing Total
March 2010 540 530 510 1580
June 2010 600 520 500 1620
October 2010 570 500 520 1590

Schools who use the highest sitting will consider her score to be 1620. Schools who consider the highest sections will consider her score to be 1650 (600 + 530 + 520). Schools who look at all scores will see all her scores and factor that in however they see fit.

What is Score Choice?

Score Choice is a College Board program designed to give you greater control over what scores colleges are see. You can choose not to send the entire exam, (not particular sections of an exam sitting) prohibiting colleges from seeing your score. This option became available to students starting with the March 2009 SAT. Score Choice allows you to choose which scores get sent to colleges and which do not.

This means that if you took both the March SAT and the June SAT you could choose to send to University A just the March scores or just the June scores. You however cannot choose to send only the Math from March and Critical Reading from June, its either the entire sitting or not.

How does Score Choice work?

When you register for the SAT you can choose colleges to send your scores to. At that time you can select whether you want them to send any previous scores to the schools as well. If you choose to send only the test you are registering for than the College Board won’t send any past scores. Or if you’ve taken the test several times in the past you can select the one(s) you want sent to each particular college. Let’s say you took the SAT in March, June, and October, you could have all scores sent to University A, only June scores sent to University B, March and October sent to University C.

If you’re interested in the College Board’s explanation of how the Score Choice process works click here for their tutorial.

Who should do Score Choice?

For some students there are benefits to using this service. You should use this service if you fit the following:

  1. You plan to complete all your SAT testing by October (and will not apply Early Decision)
  2. You have all scores on one test sitting lower than your scores for another test sitting
  3. You have not yet sent scores to any universities
  4. You are not applying to colleges or universities that require that you show all your scores

Who should not do Score Choice?

For the vast majority of students there are no gains to using the service. The three big reasons most students won’t benefit from doing Score Choice:

  1. You have to make a decision on whether to send your scores or not without knowing the score of your most recent test.
  2. If you’ve only taken the SAT twice, then using Score Choice most likely will not present your highest possible scores to colleges.
  3. Some colleges require that you send all your scores.

Given what we know about how colleges and universities look at scores and how Score Choice works it seems to suggest that nine times out of ten times your best option to present yourself in the best light to colleges is to just let the College Board send all yours scores. However, if you fall into one of the categories of students who should consider Score Choice than you should make sure you know as much as you can about how schools treat your scores. You can find the score-reporting policies for many schools here.

Please let us know if you have any questions about this by using the comment box below or by joining us for a free information session (click here for a list of upcoming sessions).

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