Parents Guide to the SAT
The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test. It assesses the knowledge and skills your child is learning in the classroom—the same skills that are key to success in college and career.
Fast Facts About the SAT
- The SAT is typically administered seven times a year in the U.S. at test centers throughout the country. See SAT test dates.
- Most students take the SAT for the first time in spring of their junior year; some take it again in fall of senior year.
- Students can take the SAT as many times as they like; we recommend taking it at least twice.
- Some schools participate in SAT School Day, which lets students take the test in school, during the school day. Learn more about SAT School Day.
- Most students pay a fee to take the SAT, but income-eligible students can take it for free with a fee waiver.
- Students tell the College Board which colleges to send their scores to. Colleges then review their SAT scores as part of their application.
- Different colleges evaluate SAT scores differently. In general, test scores aren’t the most important part of a student’s application—their high school transcript is, and some colleges have adopted test optional policies.
- The SAT connects your child to scholarship opportunities as well as to colleges that are looking for students like them.
- In addition to the SAT, there’s another college entrance exam called the ACT. The ACT isn’t associated with the College Board.
How to Register
Your child must sign up to take the SAT by the registration deadline for the test date they choose. When they register, they also choose a testing location; there are test centers throughout the country, and your child should be able to reserve a seat at a center near you. The test center may even be their high school.
Remember: You can’t register for your child. The registration has to be under your child’s name and connected to your child’s College Board online account. However, many parents help their child through the registration process. There's a registration fee, which can be paid by credit card or via PayPal.
On Test Day
Test center doors open at 7:45 a.m. on test day and close at 8 a.m. Parents aren’t allowed in the building during testing. If your child is taking the SAT with Essay, they should finish testing around 1 p.m.; otherwise they’ll be done around noon.
Learn more by visiting the What to Bring and Do On Test Day page.
Your child can practice for the SAT for free by using Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy, where they can get a personalized study plan by taking short quizzes or providing their scores on the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or PSAT 8/9.
They'll also find interactive problems, video lessons, and full-length practice tests. Official SAT Practice shows your child which specific skills they need to work on most and customizes their practice plan to help them turn areas of weakness into areas of strength.
Here's another reason to encourage your child to use Official SAT Practice: On average, students who used Official SAT Practice for 6+ hours and demonstrated at least one of these best practice behaviors scored an additional 39 points higher on the SAT than students who did not use Official SAT Practice.
Other free ways to practice include the Daily Practice for the SAT app, full-length practice tests, and online practice questions. You can also buy The Official SAT Study Guide at bookstores everywhere or at the College Board online store.
In general, your child will be able to see their scores online about 13 days after test day. If they have a College Board online account, they'll get an email letting them know their scores are ready. Then they can log in to see their scores and send them to colleges.
Your child's online score report includes detailed information on their test performance so they can see which areas they’re strongest in and which areas they need to continue developing as they prepare for college.
Most colleges want an official score report from the College Board—they don’t accept copies or screenshots. We send these score reports to the colleges that your child requests. Your child gets four free score sends with registration—they can choose their score recipients at registration or up to nine days after test day. There's a fee for sending scores after that deadline or sending additional score reports.
If your child is eligible for an SAT fee waiver, they can send as many scores as they want to colleges for free. Some colleges require applicants to send all SAT scores, while others encourage them to send only their best score or best section scores, even if they’re from different SAT tests.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many times can a student take the SAT, and when should they take it?
Students can take the SAT as many times as they want. We recommend that they take it at least twice—in the spring of their junior year and the fall of their senior year.
Most students get a higher score the second time, and most colleges consider a student's highest SAT score when making admission decisions. And if they get a total SAT score by at least 100 points higher than their previous SAT score, they could be eligible to earn an Improve Your Score scholarship worth $2,000.
Another reason to take the SAT a second time is that many schools use a process called "superscoring." Superscoring is when a college combines a student's highest Math section score with their highest Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section score, even if those scores are from different test dates, to come up with the student's total SAT score.
If your child only takes the SAT once, it’s best to take it in the spring of their junior year.
Can colleges see if a student takes the SAT more than once?
The short answer is no—nothing automatically shows colleges how often a student took the SAT.
Most colleges let students who take the SAT multiple times select which of their test scores, by date, they send to colleges. However, some colleges do require applicants to send all their test scores.
Some colleges will look at the student's highest Math Test score from all test dates and combine it with the highest Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score, even if those scores are from different test dates. This is called superscoring.
You can find out a college's policy by checking its website or contacting the admission office.
How can I find out what colleges my child sent their SAT scores to?
Here's how to find out where your child has already sent their SAT scores:Log in to Student Score Reports with the same username and password your child uses for their College Board account. Click View Details for the relevant SAT test date. Click Score Sends from the menu.
Can students outside the U.S. take the SAT?
Yes. Students can register at one of our international test centers. Learn more about taking the SAT outside the U.S.