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Retake the SAT & ACT: The Benefits of Testing Multiple Times

Testing season is here again, and families across the country are gearing up for the SAT or ACT. Whether your child scores well the first time around or is disappointed with initial results, he or she may want to plan to take the test again later this spring or in the fall.

Here's why:

Scores go up after the first try
Many parents are alarmed if their teen's test scores are less than outstanding the first time around. Never fear: for many students, the second time is the charm.Research shows that students generally see modest score increases on the SAT upon taking the test a second time, says the College Board.

A second chance is certainly good news for students who aren't satisfied with their first scores, but it can benefit high-achieving test-takers as well. Students who earn excellent scores on their first try may score slightly better on the second attempt, and even small increases in SAT or ACT scores can make a difference in college admissions when your child is competing against other high scoring students.

Score Choice
Score Choice is a score-reporting feature that allows students to choose which test results are sent to colleges, if they have taken a test more than once. With both the SAT, your child may opt to submit his or her highest scores only, depending on the college's individual score-use policy. Score Choice was designed to reduce test-day anxiety and improve the testing experience.

Score Choice is an optional feature, and if your child decides not to use it, all of his or her scores will be sent automatically. Students can send any or all scores to a college on a single report, for the same price-it does not cost more to send multiple test scores. It's a good idea to check the score-reporting requirements of each college on your child's list, information which should be available on the schools' websites. You can learn more about Score Choice at the College Board.

Test-day distractions
Taking the college entrance exams is stressful enough without added disturbances, such as school bells going off repeatedly or a proctor chatting with a friend. Incredible as it might sound, test proctors have been known to fall asleep, have audible phone conversations, or arrange flowers while students are taking the test.

If a student is sidetracked or preoccupied during the test, the consequences can be serious. According to an article on SAT testing in the New York Times, Distractions can cause mistakes or time lost, and studies show that even a 20- to 30-point score difference can affect admissions decisions and merit-based financial aid.

If your child feels that his or her SAT test was unfairly proctored or otherwise interrupted, you can email a written complaint to the College Board, however, your child should still plan to take the test again. In the event your child's test day was severely interrupted, your child can cancel that day's test scores. To cancel scores, a written request for a score cancellation must be received by the CollegeBoard by 11:59 PM ET on the Wednesday after the test was proctored. For more information on reporting test day problems or cancelling scores, visit the College Board's contact page.

If your child experienced a problem with an ACT test administration, he or she can fill out a form to notify the ACT testing organization about the incident. According to the ACT's website, ACT will examine the situation and determine whether action is warranted, including nonscoring of answer documents or cancellation of scores. If your child experienced a test day interruption, you can submit a complaint to the ACT here.

More preparation makes a difference
If the first try at a standardized test produces unsatisfactory scores, a student can still make good use of his or her mistakes. Your child may excel on every math question but stumble on vocabulary questions; he or she may ace the algebra questions, yet flounder on the geometry ones. Once you have your child's results, you can pinpoint the areas that need attention-and take action. A class or one-on-one tutoring program can give students the knowledge and confidence that will raise their scores the second time around.

If your child is currently taking a test prep course or undergoing tutoring and has some scheduling flexibility, it's a good idea to have him or her take an exam mid-way through the test prep program. Completing an extensive amount of test prep can sometimes put added pressure on a child to do well on the final exam. Taking a real, proctored exam mid-way through relives some of that pressure, and gives the student exposure to a real test-day environment before the important final test. If your child is completing a program in preparation for the May or June SAT, consider having him or her take the March or May exam as well. If your child is completing prep for the June ACT, consider having him or her take the April exam.

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