If you are taking the SAT in middle school, timing is important. Only 8th grade SATs can count for college admissions.
Old SAT scores — ones that are five years old or older — are treated as out-of-date by the College Board and by most universities. This means that sixth and seventh grade SAT scores aren’t accepted for university admissions; college starts at least five years after these middle school grades.
But once you get to the eight grade, your scores will still be less than five years old by the time you begin your university studies. So in that sense, an SAT score from the 8th grade could count for college admissions if you choose to use it.
Still, it is unusual for a college applicant to submit SAT scores from middle school instead of high school. Because of this, admissions offices may look at these older, not-quite-expired SAT scores more carefully. For colleges that consider scores from all SATs taken, there is a chance your university might choose not to count an 8th grade SAT score.
When you can count your 8th grade SAT score
If your 8th Grade SAT score is a top score
A high percentile SAT score will always impress university admissions representatives. If you managed to get a high percentile SAT score before you even started high school, that looks all the more impressive. Universities will treat a truly excellent 8th grade SAT score as a sign that they’re dealing with a bright and promising applicant.
If your high school grades are excellent
Suppose your 8th grade SAT score is only average or is very close to the minimum cutoff for the school you’re applying to. If your high school GPA is really good, an SAT score that might otherwise seem too low and too old can be accepted.
In fact, this can work in your favor. A not-so-great 8th grade SAT score followed by four years of strong school performance demonstrates academic improvement. And the ability to grow as a student is something universities like to see.
If you’re applying to schools that do not put a lot of emphasis on test scores
Some universities treat SAT scores as a minor part of their admissions requirements, placing far more value on high school GPAs, application essays, and so on.
These universities are not interested in seeing if you can score far above the minimum. And they’re not concerned with how old your SAT scores are, provided they fall inside the College Board’s recommended five-year time limit for old scores.
Your 8th grade SAT can be counted in some ways, even if you retake the exam later
Colleges love to see ambitious, hard working applicants. If you took the SAT in 8th grade, and the retook it at least once in high school for a higher score, this shows you really are ambitions. And it shows good work ethic. Most students are not willing to take the SAT more than once unless they absolutely have to. If you got a qualifying score in the 8th grade and went on to retake the SAT for a higher score anyway, it’s clear that you really strive to be the best student you can be.
When you shouldn’t count your 8th grade SAT score
If your 8th grade SAT score isn’t that great
Suppose your 8th grade SAT score is only so-so. If a university sees a middle school SAT score that is at or near their minimum cutoff, they may want to see if you can do better now that you’re older.
University admissions offices might also worry that in the years since the eight grade, you’ve become worse student rather than a better one. If you just barely met a school’s requirement before high school, the university will want to make sure you continued to meet their standards during high school. Speaking of which….
If your high school grades are poor
Even if you got a really high score on your 8th grade SAT, low high school grades can make that 8th-grade score seem unreliable. So if you have an older SAT score but have been doing poorly in high school, consider retaking the SAT. A brand new top score on the SAT may compensate for a lower-than-average GPA. But an 8th grade SAT score — even a great one — won’t really counterbalance bad high school grades.
If the SAT was significantly redesigned since you took the test
Every standardized test gets updated from time to time. Some updates are small. Other updates — such as the new, redesigned SAT — are huge! If the SAT itself has changed a lot since you were in the eighth grade, then schools may refuse to accept an 8th grade SAT score.
So if you took the SAT in the 8th grade last year, just before the College Board unveiled the New SAT, universities may not accept that SAT score in the future. On the other hand, suppose you took an 8th grade SAT this year, after the New SAT was rolled out. In that case, your score has a better chance of being accepted, provided there aren’t any other “game changing” updates to the exam between now and your junior/senior years of high school.
There are plenty of advantages to taking the SAT in the 8th grade. It’s good practice for a possible retake in high school. It helps you get a feel for your upcoming high school and college coursework. And an 8th grade SAT score might be accepted by universities when you begin your college applications in your senior year of high school.
Still, 8th grade SAT scores are not a “sure thing,” compared to high school SATs. For the reasons outlined above, there’s a chance your 8th grade SATs could be rejected by universities if that is your only SAT score. So don’t go into an 8th grade SAT exam with college applications on your mind. You’ll have plenty of time to worry about applying for college in 3 or 4 years, when you’re finishing up high school. For now, just see your 8th grade SAT as a valuable learning experience. If it does get you into school in the next several years, that’s just the icing on the cake.