SAT Score Choice vs. Superscore

To hear the College Board tell it, the SAT score choice makes the SAT less stressful and more balanced. While there’s a grain of truth there, its far from the whole story. In reality, score choice isn’t actually helpful. In fact, colleges don’t want to you use it!


Choosing your highest SAT scores is irrelevant or worse for most schools

Most schools don’t look at every score you send. In fact, the vast majority of them only look at your highest scores on each section across all test dates. The College Board has a list of what colleges’ policies are, so find your schools on that and see for yourself.

Because there are computers sorting through the information, no human being will even see your lower scores at most of those schools. There is no good reason to keep any of your scores from those schools labeled as “highest section” in that list.

In fact, since score choice only effects which dates of the test you send—not which sections—you might actually lower your total score by choosing not to send the results of one test date. Take me, for example. The first time I took the SAT, I got a 700 on the math and a 710 on the verbal (this was right before they changed the format of the test to include writing). So I had a 1410 out of 1600 altogether. The second time I took the test, I got a 720 on the math and a 700 on the verbal. That was my higher overall score, at 1420.

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How the SAT Superscore comes into play

What if I’d chosen to only send that score? Well, it would have been lower than the “superscore” from the highest sections that most colleges look at, which was 720 + 710 = 1430. It wasn’t a big gap for me, but it could make a real difference if your scores are a little more varied.

While colleges see all of the SAT scores that you submit, most colleges will look only at your top scores in each section – creating a high score or “superscore”. Taking the SAT twice can help you boost your superscore (especially if you’re stronger in math one day and stronger in verbal another.)


The schools that the SAT score choice would be relevant for specifically ask you not to use it

Look at that list of college policies one more time. You’ll notice that almost every school that doesn’t calculate by highest section score asks for all scores.

There isn’t a single school on there that says “We’ll consider every score you send, but you don’t have to send them all.”

To be fair, you can choose the less honorable path and only send in the scores you want to schools that ask for all of them, and supposedly there’s no way for them to tell. But, personally, if the school says that their admissions “require you to submit all SAT scores,” I’d follow the rules.


Everybody has bad test days

Although it’s supposed to take some of the test stress away, score choice doesn’t really do anything. Yes, if you’re sick on the day of the test, then that score won’t affect your college applications—as long as you take it again and get a better score next time. But that’s always been true. Does anybody believe college admissions offices are so heartless? There have been systems for rooting out the “bad days” all along. Score choice is one more unnecessary source of confusion, so make things easier on yourself. Just send all of your scores to all of your schools. They’ll know what to do with them. And if the SAT has really got you shaking in your boots, then maybe do some serious pondering of SAT vs ACT, as that test may play to your strengths a bit more. Rest assured that all the schools you’ll be applying to have a good grasp of ACT-SAT score conversion. 🙂



  • Lucas Fink

    Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

2 Responses to SAT Score Choice vs. Superscore

  1. Lam December 25, 2016 at 3:04 am #

    I took the November and the December SAT and scored 1350 (18 essay) and 1410 (17 essay), respectively.
    However, when sending my scores i chose to send both scores to schools even when these schools use Score choice and superscore. I am worried that schools will look at my worse score

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 26, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

      If a school uses SAT Score Choice, the best way to send your scores to them is by using the SAT Score Choice function in yur online SAT account on the college Board website. (You can see video instructions for this here.)

      If you apply to a school that uses SAT score choice and you simply send them copies of both exams, they’ll probably take yoru highest scores across all exams, selecting your top scores manually by carefully looking at both of the score reports you sent. But there’s at least a chance that if you didn’t use the automated online SAT Score Choice service, the schools might accidentally count one of your lower scores.

      If you’ve sent two score reports to a school that does NOT use score choice, that school will probably automatically select whichever SAT score has the highest whole-test SAT Superscore. But again, there’s a chance the school could get confused and mistakenly look at your lower score.

      If you’re worried about schools incorrectly ignoring your higher scores, contact the schools. Explain the situation to someone int he university admissions office, and ask them if they can make sure your top scores were selected, in accordance with school policy. Admissions offices are used to getting requests like this form time to tome. And they’ll be willing to help. They want to have the right information about you, so that they can make the best possible admissions decision.

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