Colleges use SAT scores in different ways — what does your school see?

More than 2 million students take the SAT exam every year, according to the test’s administrator, the College Board. If you’ll be one of them, you need to know why the SAT is known as a test-taker’s exam and exactly which of your scores a college will consider.

SAT Exam and SAT Subject Test Dates

The SAT has three sections:

The SAT exam is generally given seven times per year, once each in October, November, December, January, March, May, and June. Scores are delivered via the web about 3 weeks later and by mail about a week after that.

Some colleges also ask applicants to take SAT subject tests to supplement their SAT scores. If you will be taking an SAT subject test, you must plan ahead!

Some subject tests are offered only once or twice per year. In addition, students cannot take a subject test the day they complete the regular SAT test.

Up to three SAT subject test can be taken on one day.

Scoring the SAT

The SAT exam has the reputation of being a test-taker’s test. That’s because there’s a strategy to taking the test beyond studying.

Points are taken off for wrong answers, but not for answers left blank. That means you may be better off skipping a question if you have absolutely no idea what the answer is. However, if you can eliminate one or two of the choices, it may be better to take a guess.

When interpreting your SAT scores, remember that each section is worth 800 points and recorded separately. The colleges where you apply will be able to see which subjects are your strongest.

The SAT Scores Your College Will Consider

Colleges use SAT exam scores in different ways.

Some schools consider only the math and reading scores and not the essay score. Some schools are fine with seeing only your highest SAT exam score, while others want to see them all (even if you want to release only the best results under the new SAT score policy).

It’s common for a student to take the SAT exam twice or even more. In fact, many students report that their scores increase the second time.

When you know exactly what scores a college will receive, you can make an informed decision on whether taking the SAT exam again is the best choice for you.