Should I cancel my SAT score?

Good luck to all of the students taking the SAT today! To commemorate, I would like to answer the most common question I am asked on test day: should I cancel my SAT score?

The answer is easy: probably not.

You should definitely not cancel your score immediately after the test. Though you do have the option to request a score cancelation form from your proctor, never do this unless the reason you want to cancel your scores is that you threw up on the test. Otherwise, wait to see how you feel tomorrow. You have until the following Wednesday at midnight to request that your scores be canceled, so you should wait until the pressure of the test is off before trying to make this important decision. The exact procedure to follow is outlined on the College Board website.

So now it's Sunday or Monday and the initial stress after the test has passed and you still want to know if you should cancel your score. The answer is unsurprisingly still: probably not.

You likely did better on the test than you think. We tend to be an awful judge of our own success, and you may end up pleasantly surprised with your score. And even if you did do poorly, who cares? Universities now expect that students will take the SAT 2 or 3 times. One bad score on your record will probably not hurt you, especially since most colleges are happy to consider only your highest composite score. And if you canceled your scores, you would have to take the SAT again anyway, so there's no real incentive to even do so. You may as well take a chance and see what you got.

Plus, starting for the class of 2010, students can report only their highest score to colleges without needing to submit all of their other scores. The admissions officers will not even know about this bad test.

But now lets say you have read all this and you still want to cancel your scores. Sometimes cancelation is appropriate. Go through the following checklist and, if all the conditions apply, you may be a good candidate for score cancelation:

  • You are not a student of 2010 or beyond (i.e. you are a senior and will graduate before 2010).
  • You have some objective reason for knowing that your score suffered in some way (e.g. your calculator died in the middle of the math, you realized too late that you mis-bubbled an entire section, or you had some emergency during the test that prevented you from completing one or more sections). "I just don't think I did good" is not a valid reason.
  • You have contacted the colleges you are most interested in and confirmed that they consider all of your scores in their admissions decisions (e.g. they do not consider just your highest score and instead average all of your scores).

Only if all three of these situations apply should you consider canceling your score. Otherwise, wait it out and keep your fingers crossed.

Want to know if you're a good candidate for score cancelation? Leave a comment below.

Have any insight on this topic? Want to ask a question or make a suggestion? Click here to leave a comment.

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Discussion


This is great advice. To relate a story of my own...We played an atypical Friday soccer game the day before the first time I took the SAT. I blocked a shot on goal with the right side of my face.

I showed up bright and early for my exam with a bruised and painful face, a headache and feeling a little lightheaded. If that wasn't bad enough, there was a mix up with my name and they could not find my registration. For some strange reason they had transposed my first and last names and had me in the wrong room. I finally found the correct room about 5 minutes before the test was to begin.

So, out of breathe and with what was probably a mild concussion, I took my test. Despite all that, I still outscored many of my classmates. That original score was even high enough to qualify me for several scholarships.

When I took the test a second time, feeling healthy and with the lack of drama caused by the earlier clerical error, I scored even higher as the exam was a breeze compared to the nightmare of the first time. Strangely enough, it was one of the colleges that suggested I take it again to qualify for their bigger scholarship and it was my high school counselor who suggested that doing so would be a waste of time as scores rarely change. Mine did, to the tune of 120 points! (Which now qualified me for the bigger scholarship.)

Both scores turned out to be competitive and when asked about the difference and upon hearing the circumstances of the first time many interviewers were even more impressed with that score. So, think carefully about canceling your score, as like me, you probably did much better than you thought.

- Lifelong Learner, 10/06/08 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for your advice. I am considering canceling my score, but you really helped calm me down and persuade me to wait.

Thanks again.

- Yooless, 10/17/08 at 12:31 pm

What is the last test day for a high school senior to take SAT and still have them sent to colleges?

- Jessica, 10/23/08 at 6:25 pm

Hi Jessica, thanks for your question.

It varies depending on the school, but for many programs November is the last month for the early admissions programs and January is the last month for regular admittance. Remember, though, that many universities operate on either rolling admissions or something similar, so the earlier you can submit your full and complete application, the better your odds of admission.

My recommendation would be to go no later than October for early admissions and December for regular admissions.

I hope this has been helpful. Good luck!

- Brian Cavner, 10/24/08 at 2:48 pm

Yes, you are right; unless they are so sure that they can’t make it, students should not cancel their SAT score too soon. They should be brave enough to face and to know their actual score. Always weigh the pros and cons of your decision and never ever decide when you are stressed.

- Djursland Ferie, 11/02/08 at 2:26 am

I did not take the SAT exam yet. Was the test really hard to pass? I admit I am still a bit afraid to take it. I appreciate your tips here, they just made me braver ;0

- Petite, 11/17/08 at 10:23 am

I didn't bother studing for my SAT and got a pretty much average score. I personally view the tests as holding little value. A lot of my friends spent a whole lot of time fretting and studing only to do slightly better than the practice tests in the end.

- Michael Henry, 11/28/08 at 5:33 pm

Even if you cancel it... doesn't the universities and colleges still have access to those canceled scores?

- Michelle, 12/09/08 at 2:01 pm

Hi Michelle,

No. If you cancel your score within the defined period (which ends on the Wednesday following the test date), it will be as if you never took the test.

- Brian Cavner, 12/09/08 at 2:22 pm

I remember taking my SAT and feeling all the pressure that goes along with it. I really wished I could have canceled the test score and started all over.

But ultimately I did pretty well so I'm glad I didn't.

- John, 12/22/08 at 8:31 pm

It's a shame that SAT's have become such a cat and mouse game. Schools need to make the scores a lower priority. Admissions should be based on grades, recommendations, and an interview.

- Altesino, 01/13/09 at 8:18 pm

don't cancel your SAT score
i'm pretty much in the same situation as you right now (senior concentrating on college apps) and i also just took the SAT and thought it was a lot harder than last time. other people are telling me that they think this oct sat was really hard too...which means that the curve will be easier because everyone pretty much did badly (minus the really smart people)
i'm assuming you already took the SAT at least one time before or else you wouldn't have the choice to cancel it or not. colleges just count your top sat score so having a worse score won't be bad...it's either you do worse and nothing happens or you do better and it helps you

- casas rurales en cantabria, 01/15/09 at 5:20 am

The best thing that you should is make sure that you are emotional, physically and mentally prepared before taking the exam. That way you do not have to cancel your SAT scores. Besides, who would want to put themselves in a nerve-racking situation again and again?

SATs are really important. Anyone who wants to get into college should be driven to work hard to pass the exam and take it once. And you're right on the exception that anyone who has vomited on their test papers or got on an accident but showed up the next day, should do it. Otherwise, it should be a hassle to undergo the exam all over again.

- Francesca, 02/18/09 at 12:15 am

Thanks for the advice. Was gonna cancel, but now I think I will sleep on it and re-think the situation. ENJOY your blog...lot of GREAT information here.

- Beagle Girl, 02/22/09 at 3:58 pm

I took the SAT test a couple days ago, but I was kind of slow and in some sections I only answere half of the questions, or a little more than half. Do you think this qualifies for canceling my scores?? I been sleeping on this for a couple nights, and I still don't know what to do. I felt pretty confident about the questions I did answer, but is that enough???

- Gretchen, 03/18/09 at 11:33 am

I guess it all varies on the situation,I really do appreciate your advice. I am considering canceling my score, but you really helped calm me down and persuade me to wait.It's a question should I now or later?

Thanks again.

- Jerry | Landrover, 03/24/09 at 6:03 am

I am still very confused with the fact that should i cancel my score or not. Its just so upsetting since i hardly prepared for my SAT and gave it on 6th June, while studying it only for about 15 days. Though your article is very encouraging of not letting others cancel their scores. But i was too slow to answer all the questions specially those at Critical Reading. My Essay was incomplete. My Math section is satisfactory. In 2 sections of Critical Reading i was only able to answer or attempted half of the questions. Tell me what should i do....i took it for the first time, i don't even have a Score Choice. Should i cancel?! Please help me.

- Ahmed Naqvi, 06/09/09 at 12:02 pm

I took my SAT on 22nd Jan 2011 and got a 2280[M770/CR760/R750].took it again today March 12.
My dilemma is that i have 2 wrong in Maths and 2 mistakes in CR and Reading pretty good.do you think i should cancel my sat because if i get 2250 and below then that would reflect negatively on my score history[GPA:4.0]PLEASE ADVICE.AM REALLY CONFUSED. THANKS IN ADVANCE. Regards,Devansh

- DEVANSH, 03/12/11 at 7:58 pm


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