1540 - retake? manual regrade?

It’s a great score so there is no need to re-take or have a manual regrade. If he decides he wants to do it again, I’d wait until junior year instead of bothering to take it again as a 10th grader. He is better off spending time developing strong ECs, doing well in his classes, doing some community service etc. A hyper focus on testing isn’t helpful for admissions - top 20 schools turn away kids with 1500+ SATs by the droves every year but it isn’t because of their scores - it’s because their applications lack something else to make them stand out. Just getting another 20 or 30 points on the SAT isn’t going to assure you of anything.


No judgment about taking early. In our experience scores went up considerably in junior or senior year but in this case, the OP"s son did well enough not to retake.

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I think that if the OP’s son is so unhappy about his score, he should take the SAT again as long as it does not cause a financial burden for his family. I totally understand what it’s like to set a benchmark for yourself and not meet it, so if he retakes and gets that higher score, will it noticeably improve his life? In this case, the answer might be yes, as long as he’s okay with possibly getting a lower math.

We talk all the time on CC about not doing things for college, and instead doing things for your own benefit. If this is important to OP’s son, it’s worth retaking. Not sure of his individual circumstances, but a few of my friends took the ACT before me, and so I felt a ton of pressure to get as good of a score as them. I know I wouldn’t have been happy with a 1540 on the SAT. Looking back on it, it was silly, but at the time, it was super important. He’s still just a kid, and kids have emotions.

Agree that it wouldn’t do much for admissions though.


Perhaps the route to take would be for the OP to tell her son, “Okay, you did really great with your SAT score, and it will probably get you into some great colleges; but if you want to take it again and try for a higher score, then go out and earn the money to pay for it yourself.”

Teaching your children about having some skin in the game is not a bad thing.




A 10th grade student got an SAT score in the 99th percentile for 11th graders and he is:

Your kid needs help. Your kid is heading for a full out meltdown if he is beating himself up for this. If he goes on like this, I can only imagine what will happen if, Heavens Forbid, he’s not accepted to an “elite” college.

Great, but those are all colleges which accept only a small percentage of even the most highly qualified students. Wanting to apply is great, but assuming that he is going to be accepted, just as long as he is “perfect” in SAT scores and GPA (or anything else, for that matter) is not great. In general, having, “being accepted to a ‘top’ college” is not a great plan, or even a good plan. It is, in fact, a terrible plan.

I think that we are ignoring the fact that the OP’s son is beyond “unhappy with his score”. He is, in fact, overreacting.

We write so much here about how bad it is for kids to get caught up in this insanity, and yet, people are way to willing to contribute to it.

I would like to point out, again, that the kid is a sophomore, who is beating himself up for getting “only” a 1540 on the SAT. The top 1% on the PSAT/NMSQT is 1490, and the top 1% for the PSAT 10 is 1440. He is in the top 0.1% for his grade level or higher.

If the kid was OK with his score, but feels that he could do even better next year, that would be one thing, but, according to the OP’s description, the kid is equating “perfect score, every time” with self-worth.

We are talking about a kid who feels that being in the top 1/1,000 is “not enough”. At this point nobody should be pushing him any further in that direction. Nobody should be telling this kid “yes, 1540 was too low, and you should have gotten a higher score”.

Yes, kids should do their best in high school, but they should not equate “their best” with “the best that any kid anywhere could possibly do”. No kid should assume that their choices are either being the very best in the USA at everything or being a failure.

No No No No No!!!

A. There is exactly ONE college at which that SAT is not above average, Caltech. The kid’s Math score is above average for every college, and the kid’s EBRW score is above average for all but 3 colleges (Caltech, MIT, and HMC). At all but 25 colleges that score would be in the top 25%.

B. The kid a freaking sophomore. He did amazingly well on the SAT, and he should be walking around extremely proud of himself.

The problem is that the kid is not saying “Wow! I got a 1540 as a sophomore, and it’s already good enough for any college. I wonder, though, how much better I will do on the EBRW after taking another year of advanced English?”.

No, the kid is saying “I only got a 1540, I should have done better, I screwed up, and I am worried that the 1540 will not be enough”.

C. You are sending the exact same horrible message of “T10 or bust”. You are implying that colleges where this score is not in the top 25% are just “some great colleges”, because “some great colleges” has a second part which is implied: “but not the BEST colleges”.

Again, the problem is not that the kid wants to do it again, to see if he can do better. The problem is that the kid is a sophomore who thinks that getting a 1540 on the SAT means that he has not done well enough.


That is a very harsh response, and IMO is taking the OP a bit too literally. Or perhaps I am not taking her literally enough.

Yes, if the kid equates his SAT with life-long success and self-worth, that is something that should be addressed. But I read this as a not atypical dramatic teen response to not achieving a goal. Anecdotally, my D reacted somewhat similarly to her 1510 which was “the absolute lowest SAT of any of her friends except one.” (Please read that in the appropriate dramatic teen tone of voice.) Did we react to that and immediately call a therapist? No. We ignored the drama, rolled our eyes behind her back, praised her amazing achievement to her face, and left it up to her whether to take again. We also stressed it was more than enough to meet her admission goals (which she confirmed with her CC since what do parents know… haha). She ultimately did not take it again.

As long as my read of the OP’s post is accurate and there is no financial burden, let the student decide if he wants to do it just for himself as a point of pride. The parents know this student we do not. I’m sure they will look out for his mental health accordingly.

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I’m not sure that the SAT has much predictive power of college success, or whatever else it is used for, if it is studied and practiced to death (I am not referring to the OP’s student). I mentioned an encounter I had with a middle schooler a few years back in a different thread. They were sobbing because they had just got back their SAT scores and they were not great (maybe a 1540?) in their mind. This student’s family arranged and payed for them to take the SAT twice a year starting in middle school until they got a perfect score. I hope we all agree that not only is that nuts but it is also not very useful or healthy. The SAT should be taken once with only a quick perusal of the format and content (or maybe twice to compensate for extenuating circumstances, headache, illness etc.) in order for it to have any predictive value. I hated the entrance exams for universities in Europe when I had to take them, but I think they are a lot more useful as they are unique each year. Of course there is tutoring but it teaches students to think rather than beat the test. The year I sat my exams, the math part was a total blood bath. When I saw my score I thought I’m toast, but I managed to do better than most other students and got a spot in one of the programs on my list (I’m good at BSing answers when I don’t know them, I guess).

To the OP, I don’t think your kid should retake the SAT. I would be loathe to part with any more money destined to the College Board.

According to prepscholar the least SAT 75th %ile score for Ivys is 1550.
If so, applying for Ivy admission with the 1540 SAT will have better acceptance chances than applying with TO?

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We have an entire thread about how the process is damaging to our kids. This here is part of the process. This here is how it looks when the kid is a sophomore, and is devastated because they aren’t at the top of the top, because it may hurt their “dream of being accepted to a T-10”.

The OP’s kid has been obsessively preparing for the SATs since Freshman year, and has been obsessed with being accepted to a T-10 college. In another thread, the OP described the kid “His college goals are schools like Harvard, Stanfurd, Penn, and Cal”. Not life goals, not interests or possible majors, but “college goals”. Basically, this kid’s high entire school career seems to be set up to get into a T10.

So no, this is not a typical dramatic teenager having a typical bit of teen drama. This is a kid who is unhealthily obsessed with “being accepted to a T10” hitting his first roadblock and having his first meltdown.

I mean:

That is an indication of being obsessed. I hope, at least, that the kid was engaged in something more constructive, because getting 1540 on the SAT as a Sophomore is a great achievement, but it is such a small part of high school, that I hope that the OP’s kid at least took a summer course, camp, or job.

It is getting worse since, in May:


The kid moved from 1550 being a stretch goal to it being his minimum in a space of four months. You cannot say that this is healthy.


Look, he’s in 10th grade and if he wants to take it again in late junior or early senior year,fine.

But the real point is that once a benchmark is met (and that does not have to be in the top percentile) admissions is about other things.

Maybe it would help to explain to a young person that it is not a hierarchical process where some human beings are superior to other human beings based on grades and scores (for instance). It is about the class, not the individual. A school like, say, Harvard wants to assemble an interesting mixture of kids, talents, backgrounds, interests, goals.

I really think it could help high schoolers to understand this. And that they don’t really have much control over how they fit into that mix for a particular year.

Spending high school preparing for application to top schools is actually kind of a tragic waste. And ironically, doing something useful or interesting rather than spending the summer prepping would probably be more helpful anyway. Live in the present if you can, do what you like to do, try to be a nice person and you will end up where you fit best.


This is too harsh. We have no idea what’s behind what OP wrote. Maybe the parent exaggerated the kid’s level of emotion. Maybe the kid is on the autism spectrum. Maybe the kid does have anxiety issues. We have no idea and to judge the situation so harshly is off base.

Depending which test they took this summer, if OP does qualify as NMSF by taking the PSAT junior year, they will need to get a confirmatory test score within a certain time range. This year, the early end of the test range goes back to August 2019. So, the student might in fact have to take the test again.


I have to agree. And aside from assuming facts not in evidence, such posts are really not in keeping with Forum Rules, as is making assumptions about the kid.

Best to avoid and focus on reasons to retake or not retake.


Can you please let us know what Forum Rules have been violated?

Usually different posters offer different opinions and the diversity of reactions is what makes this site helpful I think. I found it disturbing to be attacked for my point of view, which is one based on a lot of years watching kids apply to college, graduate, and go on in life.

This is not the usual vibe on CC: “That’s a response I can live with, although you edited it with this add, trying to turn it back on me:”

I am a friendly person and was not trying to turn anything back on anyone. Everyone I know has seen a counselor: it is hardly an indication of pathology. I wish more saw someone earlier.

I believe @MWolf was trying to be helpful.

Last post on this thread.


If Forum Rules were violated, I would have edited or deleted the post(s), which I did not.

There are posts, and I have zero intention of singling out users, that I feel came close to the line and/or I would have said differently. But my main message was to ask to focus on the OP’s question. It’s fine to ask OP follow-up questions which the OP may or may not answer. But it’s unfair to the OP, and especially the kid, to make assumptions about the kid based on limited information.

I can address any further questions about your posts off-line.

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I agree that it’s important to keep in mind that admissions is about other things. SO many kids at my daughter’s high school got caught up in test scores and people started giving those with “perfect” scores the message that they were guaranteed admission wherever they wanted to go. Interestingly, those with good (like your son), but not perfect test scores, seem to have done better in admissions in the last few years. I think they were often more well rounded and probably had overall stronger applications.


I think the reaction you got for your recommendation to seek out counseling is more related to the fact that seeking out mental health and wellness is stigmatized. I wish mental hygiene was as important to all of us as much as physical hygiene. You would go see your doctor for a bad bout of acid reflux but seeing a counselor or psychiatrist for a bad bout of anxiety for example, is considered (not by all but by many) as taboo. The way the health care system works in the US doesn’t help but I digress. The OP can take people’s reactions and recommendations with a grain of salt because we are offering advice based on an incomplete set of data. OP knows their kid best and can synthesize the opinions of CC’s hive mind so as to best guide/help their kid.


Exactly. Well said. Maybe I am more used to folks using counselors! In school or privately. And I also know that it is very very common for kids to melt down over this stuff- usually in senior year. I feel badly that comments that are meant to be helpful are misinterpreted but it is true, my responses went beyond the question asked.

The kids I know who went to top schools did not spend a lot of time prepping for tests. They were too busy playing music, or writing/acting in plays, or buildling software, or collecting butterflies or whatever.

That said, again, many who test in 10th grade later retake in a year or two and do raise their scores.

I know one young person who kept taking the SAT until they got perfect scores. Honestly, whatever. I don’t think it helped him get into schools but it must have been almost as satisfying as winning the US Open would be :slight_smile:

Now I really will stop posting. My targeted response is, sure, retake in a year or two, but don’t spend too much time or angst on it and enjoy high school.


Thanks @skieurope. It’s always great to have your straightforward views. Just because someone asks a question on CC, there’s no need to recommend them to counseling or suggesting that they (or their kids) are offbase for simply asking a question in this supracompetive atmosphere.

I personally have been shocked at what’s become of US higher education in the last several years. I went to “tippy top” schools for both undergrad and law, and it is simply incredible as to where we are today.

If it weren’t for CC, and the numerous helpful posters who have guided me in understanding the complexities (and sometimes the ridiculousness) of the situation, I am not really sure where I could have gone for help.

I restate my basic question: Where and when did it all go so haywire in the US?

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A discussion for a new thread, please.

Thanks for that. I do agree it’s a bit of a different topic but obviously related to this.

Will start that thread shortly.