SAT scores
Do you know how your SAT scores are being evaluated by prospective universities? Source: Shutterstock

To gain acceptance to a US university, an SAT score is often required. Usually, for international students, SAT scores are required if you’re coming straight from high school and aren’t transferring credits from another university.

However, some universities still require international students to take the SAT even if they’re transferring credits or have taken similar exams, such as the O’ Levels.

There are a few things all prospective students should know before they take the SAT test and apply to a US university.

How exactly do colleges take SAT scores into consideration? If you retake the SAT, are you required to submit your previous scores as well? Are scores from all sections on the test taken into consideration?

US News Education recently reported that colleges use three different scoring systems: no score choice, score choice or superscoring.

These methods apply to ACT scores too, which is what many local American students take, as universities in the US accept both. The SAT and TOEFL tests are generally more popular among international students.

It is worth finding out which system the university you’d like to attend uses. This is to avoid missing out on a score when it’s actually required, as it could lead to academic dishonesty if the university finds out.

As US News states: “Students who apply to colleges with a no-score-choice policy should be aware of it ahead of time, since unforeseen low scores may harm one’s chances of being accepted.

“It is also critical to note that if you withhold scores from a school that finds out this fact later on, you could be rejected. Always be honest.”

Here are the differences between the scoring systems:


An increasing number of colleges today are using the superscoring method, whereby the college takes only the highest section scores of the SAT test into consideration, doing this across multiple tests if the student has taken it more than once. This creates the highest possible composite score.

According to US News, many prestigious colleges such as Boston College and Stanford University in California are now using superscoring when it comes to SAT scores.

“Students should rest assured that if their prospective colleges practice superscoring, they need do nothing about it. Superscoring is done automatically by colleges once they receive your test scores.”

Score Choice and No Score Choice

Score choice is when a student can decide which scores to send and which SAT scores not to send. However, it is advised that students send all their scores in anyway, especially if the university doesn’t wish to disclose their scoring policy.

According to US News, “When students can choose which ACT or SAT scores to send, it is assumed that they will only submit their best scores.

“Much like superscoring, which is described below, the freedom of score choice is highly beneficial to students who have scored inconsistently. Duke University in North Carolina is one school that falls into this category.

“Students should thoroughly research the scoring policies of all their schools of interest. Even if an institution lets you decide which scores to send, sending all of your scores anyway may be an advantageous course of action.”

Some may choose to send in selected scores because they’re afraid a bad score will cause the university to reject them completely – but this is not necessarily the case.

As US News explains, “One or two low scores on your application is not necessarily grounds for rejection, since standardized test scores comprise just one of various factors in the admissions decision. For certain highly selective schools, however, scores that fluctuate dramatically or consistently remain low may act as a red flag.”

It may actually work towards your benefit if you choose to send all your scores from different test dates and the admissions department sees that your scores have improved.

Score choice doesn’t mean you can pick and choose from different sections on different test dates. You’ll have to choose which scores based on test date for the entire SAT, and by individual test for SAT Subject Tests.

No score choice simply means that students are required to submit all scores, leaving it up to the school to consider or use the superscoring method.

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