How Many Official Tests Should a Student Take?

Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. ACT, Inc. limits test-takers to 12 attempts at the ACT. Considering how many times a year each exam is administered, Conceivably, someone could hit the limit by taking every single SAT and ACT offered from February of one year to November of the next, assuming she ignores SAT Subject Tests and doesn’t live in New York state. Plus, as long as she’s applying to schools that permit score choice, she only has to send the scores from certain test dates.

But why would anyone want to take 12 official tests?

Smart test takers plan for a much smaller number of official tests, usually 1-3 of each exam. Anyone who likes the idea of this more reasonable range of tests should consider some important points:

  1. A student may ultimately take many more than 3 tests, but the bulk of tests should be practice tests, preferably full-length, official released exams taken under simulated testing conditions.
  2. The best way to ensure that a student’s first official test is her last one is to prep ahead of time.
  3. According to ACT, 57% of the students taking the ACT a second time increased their Composite score. Retaking these tests can lead to improved scores. However, at a certain point, merely retesting without additional preparation is not likely to lead to better results.

Consider a high schooler taking his first road test. Chances are that test was not diagnostic; most parents make sure their teens get plenty of practice behind the wheel before the big day. Those who fail their tests don’t usually try over and over without additional practice and improvement.

So, a student can take the test just about as many times as she wants, within the restrictions of official test dates. How many she should take should definitely fall into a more reasonable range countable on one hand.


When is the best time to take the SAT or ACT?
How much time is needed to prepare for the SAT or ACT?
During which month is the SAT or ACT “easiest” in terms of scaling?