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Kristin Fracchia

Guide to Retaking the SAT

Alright, you’re in. You’re going to retake the SAT. Maybe you are going in with the dogged determination of Katniss Everdeen challenging President Snow. Or, literally, like this dog:


Maybe you’re being dragged in kicking and screaming.


Either way, you’re in.

(Or maybe you’re not! In which case, check out our post Should I Retake the SAT? first.)

So what do you do now?

Here’s a handy guide to making the most of your SAT retake so you can get the results that you want.

Step 1: Assess What Went Wrong Before

Maybe there is an easy answer: you stayed out way too late the night before or the proctor messed up the timing. But, likely the answer is more complicated.

Be honest and ask yourself:

  • Did I prepare enough? Was I studying in an effective way for how I learn?
  • Did test anxiety or family or peer pressure affect my performance?
  • Did I get enough sleep, nutritious food, and exercise leading up to the test and on the test day?

Make a list and use it to brainstorm solutions for your retake.

Step 2: Make a (New) Plan

Don’t dig to the bottom of your backpack to salvage a crumpled-up study schedule from your first SAT. Maybe some of what you did worked, but likely you have learned a lot from your experience and have a better idea of what you should do this time. Again, write your solutions down and hold yourself to them.

For example, maybe you weren’t expecting such difficult vocabulary questions (potential solution: study twenty new vocabulary words a night). Or maybe you panicked when you realized you were running of time (potential solution: practice timed sections and work with a tutor on time management strategies)

Make sure your plan includes choosing a test date that gives you enough time to prepare and one that works with your overall schedule. I am constantly encountering students who accidentally scheduled their SAT for the morning after prom. Really spoils the fun. Consider working around other tests you want to take as well. Remember SAT subject tests take place on the same day as the SAT.

See How to Study for an SAT Retake for more on choosing your study strategies for this go-around.

Step 3: Manage Your Expectations … But Go Forward With Confidence!

You are taking the SAT again because you feel you can do better. And you can. The wonderful thing about the SAT (as horrible as it can seem at times) is that it can be learned. Don’t let anyone tell you the SAT measures how smart you are. That’s just wrong.

According to the College Board, 55 percent of juniors taking the test improved their scores as seniors: on average about 40 points (although you can do much better with the right preparation). So odds are in your favor.

That being said, be realistic. If you have already studied hard, a 300-point increase may not be possible, but a 50-point increase from addressing your weakest points could be well within your grasp.

Step 4: Remember This Might Not Be the End of the Road

Depending on how much time you have, there may be another retake in your future. Test prep can be a long process for many students. So if something goes wrong on your retake, make sure you go back to Step 1 of this blog. Take notes and refine your plan or develop a new one. And if something goes really wrong, don’t forget that you have the option to cancel your scores within a few days of the test. This means you won’t get to see them, of course, but neither will anyone else. Sometimes, knowing you have an “out” (whether it is the option to cancel your scores or a future test date) is all you need to take the pressure off of a retake.

And perhaps that is the most important takeaway from this guide. There is nothing that can sabotage a retake like added pressure, so remember: take stock of what went wrong, develop a solid plan, manage your expectations, and be confident in what you have learned. You’ll show the SAT who’s boss this time.


About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's blogs are chock-full of awesome, free resources for students preparing for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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