So you’ve taken the SAT more than once. Your second or even third time, you went up in some places but down in others. Is it a wash? Were you just spinning your wheels?

There’s a lot of confusion about what colleges actually consider your score to be. But here’s the general practice:

Take your best Math score, your best Critical Reading score, and your best Writing score, and add them all together. That is your final SAT score.

It’s what’s known colloquially as the “Super-Score”. That said, most colleges still want to see ALL of your scores; they’re just not judging you on your lower performances. Some schools, however, are accepting something called “Score Choice,” where you only send them the tests you want them to see. But those scores are selected by date, not by subject.

However, even the Super-Score has its limits. Most colleges will take your Super-Score by combining the best of up to three tests. Beyond that, the general – though by no means official – rule is that your scores will be averaged, so taking the test more than three times may actually hurt you.

Another ripple-of-a-question that I hear a lot is, “So, is it a good strategy to just focus on one subject at a time and take the test three times?” It’s not a crazy thought, but the fact is, the intent of the  Super-Score is to judge you on your best, and not fault you for a few more mistakes one day than another; so if your scores in a single subject vary by more than a reasonable amount, they may average your scores after two tests, or just not accept you.

Don’t gamble with the admissions gods; they get testy.

So, to make a long story short – too late, I know - plan to do your best every time you take the test and enjoy the benefit of the doubt of the Super-Score.

Final disclaimer: Every school sets its own admissions standards. The above information  is a generalization that applies to roughly 75-80% of schools. Here is the most up-to-date compendium of colleges’ score-use practices available. Two important things to note are 1) schools that indicate “All Scores” are still likely to take the Super-Score and 2) The best way to be certain of what you’re up against is to call the admissions offices of your schools of interest and just ask.

Still have questions? Contact me