You work hard to maintain a high GPA. Despite conscientiously preparing for the SAT, you still receive bad SAT scores when test-taking time arrives. It happens to the best students, and it can happen to you. First, how bad is the SAT score you received? If you are applying to a top-tier school like Harvard or MIT, 1530 is the average for consideration. Competitive colleges in the middle want an SAT composite score of 1500 or higher (750 per section). The definition of “bad” varies depending on the school, but scoring below the national composite score average of 1050 (as of 2022) won’t increase your chances of getting admitted. With the tips below, the good news is you still have hope!
Top 4 Tips When You Get Bad SAT Scores
- Retake the SAT.
Many colleges accept a combination of your highest score. For instance, you score 680 on Reading and 750 on Math on your first test, then score 710 on Reading and 720 on Math on your next test. The college may match your best scores of 710 for Reading and 750 for Math for a combined SAT score of 1460. However, some colleges may just consider your best overall score. Check with the schools you are applying to for specifics and deadlines. Before choosing this option, read on for further tips on improving your score.
- Discover why you did poorly and better prepare.
If you were well-prepared to take the test and still got bad SAT scores, maybe it was just a fluke. Before taking action on Tip #1, find the reason for your poor performance. Maybe your prep courses weren’t a good fit, or you didn’t spend enough time on your weakest subjects. Once you know the reasons, work on improving your score quickly. The good news is you are already bound to do better on your next test since you already know what to expect. We recommend doing what you can, from finding better resources to focusing on your weaknesses and strengths. Of course, we encourage you to take more practice tests (the more the merrier).
- Try taking the ACT instead.
Yes, you can take the ACT if you received bad SAT scores. Although both test similar skills, they each have some unique advantages that may increase your score depending on your strengths. For example, the ACT has more of an emphasis on critical thinking, data analysis, and reading comprehension. You’re also allowed to use a calculator on every Math question on the ACT. Therefore, it’s a mistake to only consider the SAT as being the end-all-be-all.
- Show strength in other areas of your application.
If the previous tips don’t result in reversing your bad SAT scores, don’t instantly assume attending college isn’t an option. As important as SAT scores seem to be, some schools look at the big picture and prioritize well-rounded applicants. Do you have a high GPA, have written a stellar college essay, and are involved in school activities or community service? Your college application might still stand out to admission officers searching for students like you. Not every school makes test scores their only criteria for considering candidates. Use your college essay to fully represent your strengths and why you are an all-around student in more ways.
Best Advice For Bad SAT Scores
A low test score is never the end of the world. It just feels like it. The best remedy for it is to avoid a bad score altogether. First, know what a bad test score will be based on the schools you plan to apply to. To achieve your best score, invest time in studying and practicing rather than settling for an average score. Don’t forget other factors like a high GPA and activities, too. The more well-rounded you are, best SAT scores and all–the more competitive a college applicant you will be.