What Is Score Choice? What Is Super Scoring?

As if college admissions doesn’t already give juniors, seniors, and their families enough to think about, one of the many considerations that must be taken into account is how to report SAT and ACT scores to colleges. Should you send all of your scores? Do you just pick your best overall score? Will colleges penalize you for taking the test multiple times?

What to Consider When Reporting SAT and ACT Scores

Think about test scores from an admissions officer’s perspective. The number of applications an admissions office receives is often enormous, and it is increasing every year. However, the number of admissions officers at many colleges remains much the same. To deal with this, schools essentially create two rounds in the admission process. The first is quantitative; the school takes your test scores and your GPA and converts them into a number that they can use to rank their applicants from high to low. Those applicants who meet the score requirements move on to the second round, during which admissions teams consider other components of the application such as the essay, recommendations, level of interest, etc.

In general, test scores are a hands-off part of the admissions process. Colleges have computer programs that either select the top scores for each section of the test (super scoring) or take the highest test score. Due to this procedure, admissions officers typically only see one test per applicant. Only a handful of selective schools places higher emphasis on the number of tests a student takes and what the trends were for those tests.

To Send All Scores or to Send One Score?

For the most part, sending all your scores to the schools to which you are applying can only help you. The majority of colleges are interested in looking at your best overall score among all of the dates that you took the test.  By sending all of your scores, you allow colleges to “super score” the SAT and ACT. Colleges take the best sections across multiple test dates and combine them together for a revised composite score. Keep in mind, though, that while most colleges “super score” the SAT, far fewer “super score” the ACT. Make sure to check the procedure at each school to which you are applying.

There are colleges that care about testing trends, and those institutions specifically ask their applicants to send all scores. Ivies such as Yale consider trends in testing, so students who take the test multiple times and whose scores vary widely may take a lower place in the applicant pool than students who take the test once and have a strong score.

The College Board offers a service called Score Choice on the SAT. This allows students to pick and choose which scores they send to schools. If all of the schools to which the student applies use “super scoring,” Score Choice will not be of much benefit. However, if it is to the student’s benefit to withhold certain scores from certain schools, Score Choice can be an advantage.

How do I know if my college “super scores” the SAT or ACT tests?

Most colleges will super score the SAT, but only a few super score the ACT. For more information on your schools’ policies, check with the schools directly or consult the College Board and ACT websites.

ACT vs. SAT: What’s the Difference in Score Reporting?

The ACT provides fewer options than the College Board when it comes to score reporting. The ACT sends one report per test date to each school at a cost of $12. You will need to select each test that you wish to send to colleges. Since most colleges do not super score the ACT, you should send your highest test score. The ACT requires you to send a separate score report for each test to each school.

Should I Cancel a Recent SAT or ACT I Just Took?

If you recently took an SAT or ACT and are worried about the results, you have the option of cancelling the scores. Since most schools will “super score” the SAT and you can choose individual ACT score reports to submit, it’s probably best to let things be and see how the scores come back. Many students feel that they scored poorly on a test only to find out that their score was higher than expected. Also, keep in mind that these score reports provide useful feedback for what to focus on in your test prep efforts. If you cancel the score report, you are forgoing a lot of useful information.

It may be advisable to cancel scores if you are applying to schools that require you to submit all scores, consider trends in scores, or do not “super score.” If that is the case and you’re pretty certain you had a bad test day, this may be a smart choice.