Understanding College Admission Tactics: The Superscoring of SATs

Navigating the college admissions process can be a complex task, especially when it comes to understanding how your SAT scores are evaluated. You’ve probably heard the term “superscoring” thrown around, but what does it really mean? Is it something colleges do, and if so, how does it impact your application?

Superscoring can be a game-changer in your college application journey. It’s a policy that could potentially boost your SAT score and enhance your chances of getting into your dream college. But not all colleges superscore the SAT. So, let’s demystify this concept and explore how different colleges approach SAT superscoring. Buckle up, as we delve into the intricacies of the SAT superscoring system.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding Superscoring: Superscoring is an assessment method where colleges consider the highest SAT section scores across multiple test dates, allowing students to enhance their overall score.
  • Impact of Superscoring on SAT Scores: Superscoring can positively distort SAT scores, focusing on the highest performance in each section over multiple attempts and potentially providing a competitive edge.
  • Benefits of Superscoring: Superscoring can boost students’ overall SAT scores and reduce test-taking pressure as it decreases the need to excel in all sections on a single test day.
  • Colleges that Superscore the SAT: Many top-tier institutions like Stanford, MIT, Yale, Princeton, Duke University, and University of Chicago superscore the SAT. A quick reference or inquiry into a target college’s official website or admissions office can provide this information.
  • Strategies for Multiple SATs: Regular studying with official College Board materials, understanding individual strengths and weaknesses across SAT sections, and allotting additional time for weaker sections can optimize the superscoring method.
  • Choosing SAT Sections for Retake: If retaking the SAT, students should strategize based on previous scores, potentially focusing more on weak areas, and align with targeted colleges’ average SAT acceptance scores.

Understanding Superscoring

What Is Superscoring?

Superscoring, a term widely used in the realm of college admissions, stands for an assessment method where colleges consider the highest SAT section scores across multiple test dates. In delineating the process, consider an example where you’ve taken the SAT twice. The first time you get 650 in Math and 700 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW). The second time, you score 700 in Math and 650 in ERW. Through superscoring, the college combines the highest scores, generating a new SAT total of 1400 (700 Math, 700 ERW), and discards lower section scores.

How Does Superscoring Affect SAT Scores?

Superscoring can notably influence SAT scores, as it positively distorts the overall score. Instead of averaging all scores, superscoring focuses on your highest performance in each section, collapsing all attempts into one maximum score. This method indeed favors the test-taker, as it dismisses lower scores rather than averaging them out.

To illustrate this, imagine a scenario where you’ve taken the SAT three times. On the first attempt, you score 650 in Math and 700 in ERW. The second attempt, you score 700 in Math and 650 in ERW. On your final try, you secure 700 in both sections. A college following the superscoring method would take the highest scores (700 Math, 700 ERW) from the three attempts, resulting in a superscored SAT score of 1400. On the contrary, a college that does not superscore could consider an average or whole test attempt, which might yield a lower total score. Consequently, superscoring could render a competitive edge for admission if you’ve taken the SAT multiple times.

The Benefits of Superscoring for Students

An increased consideration of SAT superscoring by higher institute boards grants several advantages to students. Let’s dive into some key benefits that superscoring yields for students.

Boosting the Overall Score

It’s no secret that the primary advantage of superscoring lies in its ability to catapult students’ overall SAT scores. Superscoring, for instance, allows a student who achieved a Math score of 750 and a Reading & Writing score of 650 on one SAT, and then a Math score of 700 and a Reading & Writing score of 700 on a second SAT, to combine the two highest section scores (750 in Math and 700 in Reading & Writing) to obtain a combined score of 1450 instead of the original scores of 1400 and 1400. This strategy depicts a positive image of the student’s capabilities by presenting only the highest scores earned.

Reducing Test-Taking Pressure

Another substantial benefit of superscoring stems from the decreased pressure it places on students on the actual test day. Traditionally, students carry the costly burden of performing their best across all sections of the SAT on a single day. However, institutions practicing superscoring let you focus on acing one section at a time. For example, if you’ve excelled in Math on one test date, you can concentrate on enhancing your Reading & Writing score in the next sitting. This approach not only alleviates stress but also facilitates strategic preparation and improved performance.

As the conversation about SAT superscoring continues to evolve, it’s essential to understand these core benefits and how they serve to level the playing field in college admissions. With improved scores and reduced pressure, superscoring indeed stands as a win-win for students navigating the challenging terrain of college admissions. Keep these aspects in mind as you progress in your SAT preparation journey and remember, every point addition in your SAT score edges you closer to your dream college.

Colleges That Superscore the SAT

You’ve learned about the boosting power of superscoring on your SAT results and its stress-relieving benefits. Now, let’s take a look at a list of colleges that implement this strategy.

Popular Colleges with Superscoring Policies

A plethora of top-tier institutions have adopted this policy. Notably, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — alongside many Ivy League colleges like Yale and Princeton — superscore the SAT. Each university looks at your strongest score from each section, irrespective of the date the exam was taken.

Here’s a quick reference:

CollegeSAT Superscoring
Stanford UniversityYes
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyYes
Yale UniversityYes
Princeton UniversityYes

Other reputable colleges employing this policy include Duke University and University of Chicago. Lastly, don’t forget about liberal arts colleges—they’re not left out. Schools like Wellesley, Swarthmore, and Pomona College also superscore.

How to Find Out if a College Superscores

Finding if your target college superscores is straightforward. Primarily, refer to the institution’s official website. Look under admissions policies or FAQs to get direct information on superscoring. Alternatively, consider contacting admissions directly. Ask clear questions about their SAT superscoring policy, if they use results from multiple test dates, and how it’s considered in the admissions process. Communication is vital in ensuring your understanding of your target colleges’ superscoring policy. Remember, it’s crucial to make informed decisions during your college application journey.

Strategies for Students Taking the SAT

Best Practices in Preparing for Multiple SATs

Aim for the stars and put your best foot forward. Prioritize regular studying over late-night cram sessions for steady improvements. Use official College Board materials, mimic the test atmosphere in your practice sessions, and time yourself to develop speed and accuracy.

Stay clear-headed and manage your time efficiently when preparing. Establish a study schedule, identifying your strongest and weakest sections out of Math, Reading, and Writing. Allocate more time to improve the weaker sections, similar to how athletes train more intensely on their weakest skills.

Remember, quality trumps quantity. Thoroughly reviewing a limited set of problems helps more than haphazardly tackling a vast amount. Spot trends in your mistakes, and use the process of elimination to your advantage. Practice makes perfect; practice tests, to be specific. The College Board provides eight official SAT practice tests, which are a fruitful resource.

Finally, listen to reassurances given by colleges themselves. They emphasize that superscoring policies aim to encourage students to give their best across multiple attempts. In the end, it’s your perseverance and sincere preparation that count.

Tips on Choosing SAT Sections for Retake

Strategize and capitalize. It makes sense to retake the SAT sections where you’ve fallen short of your own expectations, rather than those where you’re already performing well enough. Review your previous test reports, assess your scores, and identify potential areas of improvement.

Experiment with balance. If your scores are drastically different across sections, consider focusing more on the weaker one. But, if they’re fairly balanced, perhaps taking another shot at each could boost your composite score. Always correlate your scores to your targeted colleges’ average SAT acceptance score.

Whatever your strategy may be, don’t forget that retaking the SAT is not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires additional time, effort, and resources. But rest assured, if you decide to do so, universities are ready to recognize your best efforts, as many follow the SAT superscoring policy. This policy presents an opportunity to showcase persistent hard work and the ability to improve.


So, you’ve seen how colleges superscore SATs, and how it can give your application a competitive edge. It’s a policy that rewards your hard work and dedication, taking the best from your multiple attempts. This means less stress and potentially higher scores. Remember, it’s not about how many times you take the test, but the progress you make. Focus on your weak spots, prepare smartly, and use the superscoring policy to your advantage. Keep in mind, not all colleges superscore, so research your prospective schools’ policies. Ultimately, it’s your consistent effort and improvement that colleges appreciate. So, go ahead, give your best shot at the SATs, and let superscoring help you shine brighter.

What is superscoring in college admissions?

Superscoring is a method used in college admissions where the highest section scores from multiple SAT test dates are considered. It effectively boosts students’ SAT scores, reducing the pressure of a single test performance and showcasing their highest academic potential.

What strategies are suggested for students taking the SAT?

The article recommends regular studying, efficient time management, and focusing on the quality of preparation over quantity. Understanding one’s weaker areas and tailoring study plans accordingly can also significantly enhance performance.

How can students decide which SAT sections to retake?

Students should strategize based on their weaker areas. Understanding how different universities apply the SAT superscoring policy can also guide in making an informed decision about retaking certain sections.

How do universities perceive SAT superscoring?

Universities tend to appreciate superscoring as it acknowledges students’ persistent effort and improvements over time. It also gives them a more accurate sense of a student’s academic capabilities by considering their best individual section performances.