Worth retaking ACT (34) SAT (super score 1500)?

My DD23 has taken the SAT twice and the ACT once.

Her ACT composite score is 34 (math:32, writing:34, reading: 35, science: 36, essay: 11/12). Her SAT super score is 1500 … first sitting 1470 (math:720, English: 750) second sitting 1480 (math: 700, English: 780).

Her super reach schools are Dartmouth and Northwestern and will likely apply ED to one of these. She is interested in environmental studies with a possible double major or minor in computer science. She has an uw gpa of 4.0 with 10 APs after junior year.

Her dad and I disagree about whether she should retake the SAT/ACT. He thinks she can do better in math if she puts in the time to study. I would rather have her not spend time on this as it has been a stressful year and she has other things to focus on (summer research, essays, being a teenager).

My thought is that the test scores won’t be the make or break factor and that the scores are good enough.

Should she retake either test?

I’m in your camp with being happy with the 34 and being done. That score is high enough that it won’t be what will keep her out of NU or Dartmouth.


That’s a great score, and you’re right. Standardized testing is extremely stressful and with such a good score, it’s not worth it. I hope her dad doesn’t put too much pressure on her in other aspects of performance – could lead her to unhealthy perfectionistic beliefs/standards


First off, great scores by your daughter. Outside of the top 20/30 universities, she will likely have multiple incredible options. Unlike most of the people who post on this board, I do think there is significant value in attending a “prestigious” university like Northwestern or Dartmouth.

Should you daughter retake these standardized tests?

To get the answer, I would ask you these questions:

  • Is she an underrepresented minority?
  • Does she have an EC of national or international acclaim?
  • Is she a legacy to either school?
  • Have you donated a large sum of money to either school?

If you answered “no” to all 4 questions, it is probably in her best interest to retake the tests to get in to N or D.


Thanks all for your responses! Definitely an unhooked kid for the schools mentioned. She has really solid and interesting/unique ECs but not at a national level. We have been very clear with her that she needs to apply to a broad range of schools in terms of selectivity that she would be happy attending including our flagship state school.

One thing that feels really unclear to me is how much standardized scores really matter against everything else? Some people seem to feel that it merely checks a box (34+/1500+) to get your application read. Other people feel like a 34 vs 35 vs 36 makes a difference.

Mostly for Asian-American applicants to highly selective schools, but agree with others that there are a lot more factors that influence admission decisions - test scores being only one component.
If your D is not Asian-American, she’s going to be fine with those scores.


Thanks! Not Asian American, Caucasian. Applying from the US South West from a highly ranked public high … not sure if geographical location makes any difference for selective colleges :woman_shrugging:

Yes, it can make a difference if you’re in an under-represented state. Example - for Dartmouth if you’re from New Mexico.


Geography can be a bump.

No scholarships from Dartmouth but will she also be applying to schools that offer scholarships? Will money play a role in decisions? If so, then maybe consider retaking the test for larger merit possibilities.

That said, S20 took it three times. First was a baseline. Second was after prepping. He wanted to bump it a little higher because he was looking for merit. Didn’t work out. Between AP’s, finals, EC’s, work and test prep there was burnout after junior year. He stopped and worked on essays. It worked out.

I would either stop or give option to prep over the summer and take one more time in fall but wouldn’t be heartbroken if she stopped with a 34/1500.


S22 applied with a 34, and was admitted to two T15 schools (per US News rankings), so it can be done. He is unhooked. Solid but not extravagant ECs. His essays were generally strong, IMO. If anything, being a rural applicant may have made him a bit unique. Impossible to say. At any rate, we felt the 34 (one sitting) was strong enough not to retake. Again, who knows? Like you, I felt better about him saving the stress of another test and putting his time into essays, applications, and normal HS pursuits instead. Good luck on your journey!


Her PSAT score is above our states historical cut-off for National Merit Semi Finalist so :crossed_fingers:on that. With that in mind she will probably apply to USC and BU (legacy) with merit in mind. We are in the fortunate position that we can pay fully for any school without merit aid.

I hear you on the burnout! I feel like we ask so much of kids these days in terms of APs, testing, ECs, and handling remote learning for a year. I have one tired junior. So while I think she could do better if she really studied for the math, I am not sure it is worth it. She has a full time research internship at our state flagship university in her area of interest this summer so I am guessing she won’t be super motivated to study.


You’re right and hubby is wrong.

Test scores are very much deemphasized right now. The issue is that many colleges are still test optional. Only students with high scores are submitting them. A 34 is high enough and it is not going to keep her out of any tippy top colleges. It’s all the other factors that matter, particularly grades and course rigor. Teacher recs are very important. Essays and ECs matter. Test scores are just not that important right now.


It’s plenty good enough. Her time is better spent at this point on other things. Those scores confirm high academic achievement, and that’s all that is necessary. What will get her in, at this point, is the other components of her application.


I say done. As one long-term math and SAT/ACT tutor said to me, at that high score level, it is very hard to see significant improvement.

I would focus on other aspects of the application and spend time thoroughly researching colleges.

PS I had the same battle with my husband. I was right.


As a long time test prep tutor myself, I fully agree with this. And in fact, many high scoring students do worse on a retake.


My DD had a 1580 going into this year’s college application (missed one question on verbal and had a perfect math) — and it seemed to have no influence. We are still figuring out her path from a chaotic acceptance year. I would make sure the test score is in the high end of a range for a competitive school, particularly the math side if a STEM student, and then forget it. Focus on the rest of the application. Sadly, it really didn’t help her at all.

They may come back to have an influence but that’s not going to be immediately next year (unless maybe MIT).

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As usual, everyone is weighing in with far more confidence than they should be, imo, in the changing test-optional, application-surge landscape.

Northwestern and Dartmouth are being very cagey about releasing test data for the Class of 2025, with Dartmouth going so far as to omit it entirely from their 21-22 CDS (I suspect that this is because they are reluctant to reveal clues about how many kids got in TO. If the perception is that it was too low, they’ll get bad PR for not treating TO applicants fairly and holistically. If it’s too high, it could turn off ultra-high stats kids. But this could be its own post.).

Looking at their class of 2024 stats and extrapolating what’s happened at schools that did publish 2025 numbers, it can be assumed that a 1500/34 is going to fall below the 50th percentile for all students who submit scores, and probably quite a bit below for unhooked students. We are now living in a world where the median test-submitting NYU accepted student score was a 1550.

Will a 35 or 36 make a difference all by itself? Probably not. Will whatever your daughter does with the time she saves by not testing again make a difference? Also probably not. But the new higher score bands are a signal; they’re not nothing. I can’t see how anyone could say it definitely will not make a difference to your daughter’s chances to go in with a 35 or 36, I just can’t.


Yes! Her math score went from a 720 to a 700 after studying (kind of) …

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I don’t think enough people are taking this new reality into consideration.


I do agree that the trend will be interesting to watch. I am glad that standardized test are being deemphasized in general. It does mean that more and more students will go TO and submitted scores will be higher.