Most advice about taking the ACT and SAT instructs students on what to do in the days, weeks and months before the exam. However, the posttest period is also important because it requires specific and time-sensitive action from test-takers.
If you have just taken the ACT or SAT or plan to do so, follow these four after-exam steps as soon as possible:
— Order additional score reports if necessary.
— Decide whether to submit your scores to test-optional colleges.
— Determine how colleges will use your ACT or SAT scores.
— Review your performance with an eye toward future improvement.
Order Additional Score Reports if Necessary
ACT and SAT test-takers are allotted four free score reports — the document that outlines your results — per sitting. If you retake either assessment, you will be entitled to four then, as well. Note that the four free SAT score reports apply to the weekend administrations of the test.
Students with fee waivers are allowed an unlimited number of regular SAT score reports and other benefits. On the ACT, students with fee waivers are allowed six free reports at the time of the exam — plus one to their high school — and an unlimited number of regular ACT score reports after registration.
On exam day, many students send their scores to four schools on their college short list. But students who forget colleges on their short list or who prefer not to choose right away are not obligated to.
The College Board, for example, permits students to use their four free SAT score reports even after test day. Don’t delay too long, though. The offer expires nine days later, at which point you must pay the $12 fee unless you have a fee waiver.
For both the ACT and SAT, students can order a new score report at any time if they decide to apply to a new college.
Decide Whether to Submit Your Scores to Test-Optional Colleges
Not all colleges require prospective students to submit ACT or SAT scores. Some institutions have always had a test-optional policy in place while others have adopted this stance recently.
Due to the academic upheaval provoked by the novel coronavirus, an unprecedented number of universities have abandoned their testing requirements. Duke University in North Carolina, for instance, is waiving the requirement again for the 2021-2022 academic year. Others, like William and Mary in Virginia, are making the submission of test scores optional until further notice. Still others have lifted the requirement permanently.
If any of your prospective schools are softening their testing policy, carefully weigh whether submitting your scores will help or harm your application’s standing. Students who are content with their SAT or ACT scores may benefit by including them with their application materials. On the other hand, students who are unsatisfied and send their scores anyway may unnecessarily compromise their chances of admission.
Determine How Colleges Will Use Your ACT or SAT Scores
Colleges may use standardized test scores for several reasons beyond just admissions: to determine your overall college readiness, to award scholarships, to place students in honors programs or level-appropriate courses, and more.
For each college you plan to apply to, you should have a clear idea of the lens through which your scores will be assessed. Such information may be posted on the institution’s official website, so getting answers may require only some light research on your part. Other times, the answers may not be public, so you may need to communicate directly with the college via phone or email to find out.
In any case, it is crucial to know how your scores will be used because this information will frame how you interpret your results. If your school of interest uses test scores for course placement purposes and you want to enter a 200- or 300-level math class, you may want to study for and retake the math section even if you’re satisfied with your overall test performance.
Review Your Performance With an Eye Toward Future Improvement
As soon as students receive their ACT and SAT score reports, they tend to zero in on their composite score. The composite score summarizes a student’s overall performance, so its merit as a test-taker’s focal point is understandable. However, there is much more to one’s score report that warrants attention.
One extremely helpful feature of ACT and SAT score reports is that they break down your performance by test section, making it easy to identify your strengths and weaknesses. When analyzing your score reports, look carefully for patterns and trends in the data. For instance, if you underperformed in algebra and geometry questions, you may particularly benefit from reviewing ninth grade and sophomore math material before beginning college.
If you decide to retest — another decision to be weighed carefully — your score report should be the guiding force in your prep sessions. By no means is it a document you should look at only once; keep it on hand and refer to it often to ensure your studies are suiting your needs. Your score report may also dictate how you review for future college-level assessments.
The battle does not end on ACT or SAT test day, so do not celebrate too soon. You still have at least one more checklist to fulfill.
More from U.S. News