application process

Is It Bad to Fail the SAT? Consider These 5 Things

As many as 55% of students get higher scores when they retake the SAT because of experience and increased confidence. This is why it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious between taking the exam for the first time and viewing SAT scores online. And now, you may be wondering what would happen if you failed the SAT.

No one can fail the SAT. The lowest possible score a test-taker can get on the SAT is 400. While it’s not possible to fail the SAT, it’s very much possible for a student to fail to get accepted into a college because of a low SAT score. Retaking the SAT can help a test-taker get a better score.

There are no failing and passing SAT scores. However, there are bad and good SAT scores.

Needless to say, a good SAT score is something that will allow you to gain admission into the college or university of your choice. The higher your SAT score, the better your chances of receiving an acceptance letter from your dream school. However, keep in mind that your standardized test score is just one small part of your application.

Keep on reading whether you just took the SAT and feel that you have underperformed or believe that your SAT score is not adequate. Below, we will discuss some of the most important matters you need to know about your SAT score, such as if it’s good enough or the things you can do to get a better score.

What is a Good SAT Score?

A good SAT score is something high enough to get the test-taker admitted into the college or university he or she is applying to. A good SAT score is also something that puts the student in the top half of all test takers. In 2019, the College Board said that the average SAT score is 1059.

The highest possible score you can get on the SAT is 1600. It’s the sum of your individual scores for the two sections of the SAT. The highest possible score you can get on each one is 800.

Most of the time, submitting SAT scores from different test dates will bring about your SAT superscore. Simply put, it’s the composite of your highest scores for the two sections of the SAT from different test dates.

However, not all colleges and universities compute the superscore, which means that what you submit is what they will look at.

And this brings us to this important question…

5 Things to do if SAT Score is Low

faling test
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Retaking the SAT can help increase a test-taker’s score. Requesting for score verification is possible if the student feels that it’s necessary. Taking the ACT is an option if retaking the SAT doesn’t seem to work. Lastly, one may try applying to a different school, such as a test-optional one.

If settling with an SAT score you aren’t proud of isn’t an option, there are steps you may take.

Below, we will talk about some of your options if you are unhappy with your SAT score and feel that you deserve a higher one. Check which of the following can help you get through your dilemma:

Retake the SAT

As mentioned earlier, 55% of SAT retakers saw improvements in their scores.

Generally speaking, the majority of those who take the standardized test for the second time are happier with their SAT scores. This is why it’s a good idea to consider retaking the SAT if you are not happy with your score and you feel that it could impact your college admission.

But just because you are willing to retake the SAT doesn’t mean right away that you will get a higher score.

It’s true that many retakers get higher SAT scores. However, according to statistics, 35% of SAT retakers had a drop in their scores. On the other hand, 10% of SAT retakers had no change in their scores. Therefore, to enjoy an increase in SAT score, you should gear up very well for an SAT retake.

Request SAT score verification

The College Board says that it monitors the scanning accuracy of SAT answer sheets via multiple quality assurance checks.

Still, the fact remains that the machine that scans the answer sheets may malfunction or commit errors. This is why you may request a Hand Score Verification to make sure that your SAT was scored accurately.

Doing the same is possible if you made an obvious error in filling in the bubbles. For instance, you may have placed your answers in the wrong section of your answer sheet.

Refrain from assuming that a Hand Score Verification is the way to go, even if you can pay the $55 fee. The College Board says that there are times when requesting one is discouraged. Did you use a pen rather than a number 2 pencil? Then your SAT will not be verified, and your score will not change.

Take the ACT

Most colleges and universities will accept either SAT or ACT scores. If your score after retaking the SAT is still not high enough to gain you acceptance into the school you have always dreamed about going to, consider taking the ACT instead as it may be the right one for the kind of test-taker you are.

Both the SAT and ACT are difficult standardized tests. However, they are different in that the SAT is an aptitude test, which is designed to measure your verbal and reasoning skills.

On the other hand, the ACT is an achievement test, which is designed to assess everything you have learned in high school. Taking it is a good idea if it seems that no amount of SAT retakes was able to improve your score.

Just keep in mind that, unlike the SAT, which you can take infinite times, you can take the ACT up to 12 times only.

Make up with other strengths, e.g. essays

Earlier, it was mentioned that SAT scores are not the only things that admissions officers look for.

While your SAT score is an integral part of your application, there’s something in it that has a bigger impact on the application process: the GPA. Then there’s also your extracurricular activity list, admission essay, recommendation letter, etc.

It’s exactly due to this why you should not lose hope if your SAT score is not that stellar. Your dream college or university might still welcome you into its campus if the rest of your application is a complete head-turner.

However, it’s a must that your academic performance is commendable since you started high school to convince the admissions officers at your preferred school that you would make for a wonderful addition to their student body.

It’s just that something went wrong during the SAT, like you could have been extremely nervous or kind of sick.

For example, list to this podcast episode about a student with dyslexia, who was admitted to University of Chicago despite low SAT scores:

Apply to test-optional school

Last but not least, you may try applying to a different college or university. While this will keep you from going to the school you have been dreaming of attending ever since, it can keep you from going through the stress and frustration of receiving a letter of rejection in the mail.

Many community colleges will accept applicants whose SAT scores are not deemed well enough by other schools, including most especially selective ones, like the Ivy Leagues.

These days, more than 70% of colleges and universities in the US have test-optional admission policies. In other words, submitting SAT scores may or may not be done by the applicants.

Just make sure that the rest of your application is strong since the admissions officers will surely look for other things if your SAT score isn’t available.

Just Before You Worry About Failing the SAT

Technically speaking, no one can fail the SAT. As a matter of fact, you will get a score of 400, which is the lowest possible score SAT test-takers can get, even if you do not fill in any of the bubbles.

Guessing will cause you to get more than 400 since there is a 25% chance that you will get the right answer each time — there are four available answer choices for every question. Because of this, making an educated guess is highly recommended, particularly if you have no idea of the answer.

While there is no such thing as a failing SAT grade, you may fail to receive an acceptance letter from the college or university of your dreams, especially a selective one, if your SAT score is low.

Retaking the SAT, which typically results in a higher score, is always an option.

Related Questions

Is it bad to retake the SAT?

It’s not bad to retake the SAT. As a matter of fact, the College Board says that up to 55% of test-takers improved their scores after retaking the SAT. Although students can take the SAT as many times as they like, it’s a good idea to limit the number of their SAT retakes to three to four times only.

Should I submit my SAT score from different test dates?

Most colleges and universities require applicants to submit at least one SAT score. However, when applying to a school that superscores the SAT, the admissions officers will consider only the highest scores on each SAT section from various test dates and combine them.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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