One of the least understood aspect of the SAT or ACT exams is the use of the superscore by college admissions officers. Most websites do not adequately explain how test scores are used in the college admissions process, so let me break this down for you so that your college application is a winner.
Most tutors, test prep companies, and college counselors do not give students and parents adequate counseling in sending test scores. Why? because very few people (including lots of tutors) understand the process themselves. Most tutors are concerned with tutoring, not so much with how the scores will be evaluated by colleges.
What is wrong with this approach? Students do not take these tests for "fun", but to get admitted to college (obvious but often overlooked!). If you do not know how colleges use the test scores in the admissions process, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. With my students, we always strive to get the best SAT or ACT score, both single sitting and superscore.
Well, it is pretty easy. To calculate the score, just take the best section scores from each individual SAT or ACT exam date. For example, if you took the new SAT in March and scored 560 Reading, 640 Math your total scores would be 1200. If you took the test again in June and scored 640 Reading, 560 Math, your total score would also be 1200. Now here is the important part. The super score (the combined score from both sittings) would be 1280 (almost 100 points higher).
While less popular in college admissions, many colleges also use the best single sections for the ACT test. It works similarly. If you take the ACT three different times, colleges will use the best single score from any of the four sections, creating an ACT superscore. Almost always this will give you at least one additional point on your Composite score.
The biggest mistake students make when preparing for the SAT or ACT is that they do not take the test more than once. Because so many colleges now "superscore" the SAT and ACT, students should always take the test at least twice, if not three times, to create the best superscore possible. Don't forget to read my recommendations for Best ACT prep books and Best SAT prep books. These are great resources for improving scores.
Students waste time, parents waste money, and chances of admission actually may lessen unless the time is taken to understand how test scores are used by colleges. Students and parents have lots of submission options, each with benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to be educated on this aspect of the college admissions process.
If you haven't already, read my article "How to Decide which Test Scores to Send to Colleges", which provides an overview of the issues involved in sending test scores to colleges.
If you have already prepared for the SAT or ACT, and you are still scoring lower than you desired, make sure you are using really good SAT materials or ACT materials. If you scored low on the SAT, then make sure to take an ACT practice test. Many students will score higher on the ACT because the material tested is more compatible with the current high school curriculum.
If you have done everything you can, and you still did not score as high as you had hoped, remember that there are many "test-optional" colleges in the United States. If you are not familiar with this options, read this article that I wrote on the topic.
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