1540 - retake? manual regrade?

Son is in 10th grade. He studied all summer and got a 1540. His goal was a minimum of 1550 but really wanted something in the neighborhood of 1570-1580.

He ended up with 800 math and 740 verbal.

On the verbal, there was one question omitted. He doesn’t think he omitted a question so a regrade might give him that question and bring him up to his minimum goal of 1550.

I am happy for him and told him he did well but he doesn’t want to hear it. He’s sad, disappointed, mad at himself, etc.

He wants to apply to top schools like Harvard, Stanfurd, Penn, Cal (where SAT doesn’t matter anyway), maybe MIT/CalTech, etc.

He wants to take it again but I’ve been trying to convince him that there’s really no guarantee that he’ll do better…can’t guarantee an 800 in math again so he might lose points there even if he gains a few points on verbal.

Anyway, how much of a difference does it make for top schools if he gets say a 1560 or 1570 vs 1540?

Not much at all. Once the 1520 threshold is passed, there is no need. Make sure he really deepens those ECs and write good essays


Very little, if any. Maybe a E800/M740 at MIT/Caltech, but that’s not the case.

On hand verification - I’ve seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of “my score can’t be right, they screwed up, I’m going to have it regraded” posts over the years. I’ve yet to see a “my score went up after regrading” post, other than a single essay review in the bizarre 2020 AP exams. I’m sure it has happened, and this could be that first, but you’re betting on an optical scanner getting wrong what a human can clearly see.

Only caveat is CMU, that explicitly says they want scores from Junior year or later. (I’m not aware of others, but I haven’t reviewed every institution). My D22 retook her 8th grade 1560 as a Junior for this reason (and for NMS qualifying, but 10th grade is fine for that).


I’m so sorry he feels this way. I would be genuinely concerned if my 10th grade son had this reaction. I sincerely hope he gains perspective as he matures, and maybe you can help him realize that true happiness and meaning do not come from chasing a “top” college, or from being admitted to one.


Oh my…99.9% of test-takers would love his score! Be content with this score and work on “soft” skills. Small talk, interviewing, eye contact, thank you note writing, hand shake. Why does he want to go to those schools? Just for the prestige? Will he be happy? Be his authentic self? He’s obviously bright - encourage him to bloom where he is planted.


Your son got that score the summer between freshman and sophomore year? You say he’s in 10th grade now, so I assume he took it after freshman year? Why is he taking it so early? Firstly, I am very happy for your son, this is an excellent score, especially for someone so young. I do not know your son so I may be overstepping but please tell him to be happy with that score and walk away. For his future mental health he shouldn’t be so focused on perfection. He will have failures and setbacks and he needs to be able to accept that, because a lot of times things will be completely out of his control. If I were on an admissions committee, I wouldn’t want to see someone studying and testing so early. I would want to see service work, volunteering, job, dance competition, volleyball tournament, and the like. Your son sounds like he has the academic angle wrapped up. That is only one part of his application. Have him focus on other areas to show he is well-rounded. He sounds like he will be a very competitive applicant, but still a long shot for anyone.


Why doesn’t he try the ACT?


That SAT score is totally fine for applying anywhere. But it is very possible that his English score will improve, because he has two more years of high school English before his last shot at the SAT, in late summer before senior year.

If he’s only entering 10th grade, that is fantastic that he got an 800 on the math already! With a little more prep for English, he’s going to make National Merit.

Does he like to read? Reading a ton of novels definitely improves one’s comprehension, would improve his SAT score in English.


No he should not retake and if this is legit, either you both don’t understand admissions or you both need counseling, to be frank. Anyone who is sad and disappointed with this score has bigger problems to deal with.


I am not sure why that needs to be said. The OP is clearly telling their son not to take it again. A 10th grader can be given a pass, as he’s young and simply needs to be told his score is beyond superb and there is no need to take it again (unless the school wants the test score from 11th or 12th grade).

A lot of us here (e.g., me) have only just started learning about admissions in the past year or so. If I ask a question (and I have asked many), it does not mean I “need counseling.”

What needs counseling is the insanity of the admissions process and how the system is out of control. Take a look at the Reddit threads for the day the test scores come to see how frantic kids are. It is unfortunate, but it is not always the kids or their parents needing to chill, in many cases. It’s the system.


Many have the erroneous idea that a perfect score makes a difference. There is no difference between a 1540 and a perfect score in terms of admissions. I said that they need a better understanding of this process and if this level of angst continues, counseling can help. The stress these kids are under, and by extension, in some cases parents, can benefit from support. There is nothing wrong with obtaining that, and no stigma. Not sure why you think counseling is a bad thing. I read that 50% of Harvard students seek it at some point, which is not a surprise.


That’s a response I can live with, although you edited it with this add, trying to turn it back on me:

Your original response was OTT. Merely asking a question does not require “counseling” and, in fact, the OP is very much trying to get their son to back off. It’s a basic question that requires a basic answer, which is, in almost every case, no.

I’ve had this very same discussion with my D just recently. DECADES ago, I got a 1400, and was ecstatic. Today, many would view that as a mediocre score.

My indictment is not necessarily to the kids or the parents. The alleged “excellence” of universities was just demonstrated today/yesterday with the USNWR rankings. When I see that Cal is Number 1 in Forbes and Number 22 in USNWR, I begin to sense a rat. When I hear that colleges are using marketing and other means to artificially increase their “selectivity”, that’s pretty much when I say this has become total BS.

I agree with your ETA on your latest post that there is nothing wrong with counseling, but that’s not the response you gave in your first post. Is counseling a bad thing? It’s not. But this is a very basic question, so I am not sure why you would suggest the OP has “issues” by merely asking a very basic question, given the artificial standard of “excellence” and “selectivity” that colleges are milking for every penny. And that’s the issue: it’s the concern about the penny, not the student.

We are not passive victims of the admissions process. If we get caught up in it, it helps to talk to someone. That’s all. Test scores do not measure the value of a person. Admissions doesn’t either. It is hard to retain perspective in some environments.

I am seeing it from the other side- many years- and kids who melted down at elite schools when starting counseling earlier might have helped.


You are completely correct. We (and our “kids”) can’t be held hostage to this nonsense. Until Varsity Blues came along, I completely bought into the nonsense of “tippy top” schools. I don’t anymore.

That anyone could POSSIBLY be asking whether a 1540 on an SAT requires a retake tells me how far in the abyss we’ve sunk. All of us (who are parents and students) shouldn’t fall for this trap.

I don’t think we disagree on anything, really. It’s just sad that our wonderfully bright future (our children) is caught up in this absurdity.

I wonder where it all went wrong with US higher ed? I know WHAT caused it to go wrong, and that was cash. When and why it got there is something I’m still struggling to figure out.


IMO you need to check results threads on CC for acceptances in the schools you have mentioned for the Fall 2021 application cycle. I recall many received at least one or more Ivy acceptances with a 1540 SAT score, I am hoping they all will have great essays and strong ECs to overcome the lower side of SAT score. ORM and URM status also matters. You didn’t mention GPA UW. If SAT score is a big concern after you validate the previous CC results threads then you can try the test-optional route, assuming your Son’s GPA UW is perfect or near-perfect, and ECs and Essays are strong. IMO, your S better focus on essays and ECs, rather than worrying about retaking. Good luck.

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Going test optional with a 1540 is not a good idea. Grades and scores just need to meet a benchmark and then admissions is about other things, including “character.” Better to spend the time developing interests, whether an art, volunteering, hobby or something else.

This is a 10th grader which is one reason I was concerned. That is early to take the SAT’s.

Make sure he know about many other schools . The website "Colleges that Change Lives"is helpful and also google “Little Ivies.”


And again I ask…how about the ACT?

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I don’t understand why some are judging taking a test relatively early, there can be many valid reasons why a 8th, 9th or 10th grade student might take an SAT or ACT….including for math competitions, accelerated programs, etc.

For Op your S doesn’t have to test again, nor would I ask for a regrade. I do want to highlight what richinpitt posted about CMU wanting a test from summer after 10th grade or later, so if CMU is of interest another test will be necessary. Note also CalTech is test blind right now for all applicants, and will be thru 2024 for in-state students.


CalTech is a private university and is test blind for everyone. Your state of residence doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure.

Caltech did initially say testblind for 2021 and 2022 for all applicants, then only for in-state applicants 23 and 24 (I assume to be in solidarity with the UCs, but don’t know that to be the reason). Now I see they extended the test blind policy in July 2021…for all applicants thru 2023, with no mention of 2024 policy.