After testing, many students ask themselves whether a good score is “good enough,” or wonder how many times the SAT/ACT is worth taking in the hopes of an improved score. Generally, it feels like taking the SAT/ACT again is an obvious choice if you’re dissatisfied with your score, but retaking the test can cost you time and money, and distract you from other important elements of applying to college. If you’re wondering whether or not you should retake the SAT/ACT, there are several questions you should ask yourself before making a decision:

How Far Is My Current Score From My Ideal Score?

Most students have an “ideal score” that they walk into the test hoping to attain—they want to “break” 1500 on the SAT, for instance. One of the biggest temptations for high-achieving students is to retake the test until they get their ideal score or as close as they can—and this can be a great idea! However, the difference in score isn’t always worth it. For instance, if you scored a 1480, and you were hoping to get to 1500, you may be better off keeping your initial score and focusing on perfecting other aspects of your application.

What Score Do I “Need”?

While hardly any colleges will explicitly state, “You need to score X on the SAT/ACT for admittance,” it’s common for schools to publish a “range” of scores for the students they admit (“The incoming Class of 2025 on average scored between X and Y on the SAT/ACT”). If you are close to that range for your first-choice school, but not quite there, retaking the SAT /ACT after some extensive study and test prep can be an excellent way to boost your odds of admittance.

What Happened the Last Time I Took the Test?

One extremely important question to ask yourself when you consider retaking the test is whether or not your first test was affected by extenuating circumstances. For instance, if you had a bad cold the day of your first test, or if you had just received some startling personal news the night before which kept you from sleeping well, these could have had a profound effect on your test performance. Sometimes extenuating circumstances prevent you from doing your best on a specific test day, and this can’t be avoided. If that was the case when you last took the SAT/ACT, then retaking the test, particularly after going through some test prep to keep the test materials fresh in your mind, can be an excellent idea.

How Will the Schools I’m Applying To Read My Scores?

Be sure to check the schools you’re applying to for their policies regarding multiple SAT/ACT scores. Does the school you’re applying to weigh your highest score, or your most recent? If they weigh your highest score, then retaking the test cannot possibly hurt you, but only help you. If, however, your school weighs your most recent score, regardless of whether your earlier scores were higher, proceed with caution. If your school weighs your most recent score, and you do decide to retake the test, be certain to study hard and develop a plan of action so you can be certain your score will be improved when you retake the test.

Do I Have a Strategy?

This last question is quite possibly the most important. The SAT/ACT is not like a roulette wheel—retaking the test again and again at random in the hopes that you’ll land a better score will just leave you exhausted and frustrated. If you want to retake the SAT/ACT, you’ll need a strategy for how to approach it. Take a look at your previous test: what areas do you need to improve on? How will your study plan for your retake differ from your first test, and what strategies worked well and can be kept?

Once you’ve looked over your circumstances and determined if retaking the test is right for you, the next step is registering for the test and beginning your course of action for test prep. Remember, retaking the test can be a major boost to your college application, so study hard, and good luck!

Alternatively, schedule a free 20-minute consultation with one of our test prep advisors and get their two cents!