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09/03/2020 at 02:15PM

Cancelled SAT – what should I do?


I am a senior applying for universities this fall. Some of the universities I am applying to include Stanford University and Northwestern University, both of which have very high SAT score levels.

I took my SAT once during junior year and got 1470, which is in the 25th percentile of both universities. I was signed up to retake it in August and then September, though both were canceled. I am waiting for news on the October test, but I plan to take it (though it will likely be canceled too).

My question is, if I don't get the chance to retake the SAT, should I submit the 1470? If so, should I explain in the additional information section that I was unable to retake it, or would this explanation seem like a bad excuse badly regarded by admissions officers?

Thank you!

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5 answers

09/04/2020 at 03:13AM[edited]

I looked at the Common Data Set for Stanford and Northwestern.

The most recent SAT scores for Stanford are 1440 (25%) to 1550 (75%)

The most recent SAT scores for Northwestern are 1450 (25%) to 1540 (75%)

Both schools take a holistic view on each applicant's file for admission so SAT scores are only going to be a small part of the criteria for getting in.

Since both schools have a test-optional policy they are both aware that many of their typical applicants will have lower test scores purely because off all the cancelled test dates. These fewer opportunities will result in lower scores because most successful applicants take the SAT more than once, some 3 or 4 times and they rely on superscoring to get to the 1500+ range of scores. Therefore applications officer shall know that you only took it 1 time in Junior year and got 1470. They will conclude that you could easily improved that score by 50-100 pts over this year with amply studying and the availability of test dates. Therefore they would in my opinion value a composite score of 1470 as clearly meeting the 50% threshold bar. So what if you are not at the 50% level, you are at the 35% level which is plenty good to check that box off. I do not think that either school cares if you received a 1470 or 1570.

Similarly to the cancellation of SAT test dates, many or most schools went to a PASS/FAIL, or PASS/INCOMPLETE grading system for Spring term. So if you had all Bs Fall Semester, any AO would connect the dots from your performance and past performance and assume that you probably would have received all Bs again. The same goes for someone who too 5 AP classes and received a 4.81 GPA for the fall semester. They would assume that you would also get a 4.81 for Spring semester. Therefore, why wouldn't they think that if you only took the SAT 1 time you would have scored higher if you had other chances to take the test and superscore the results.

Take it from me, you only have to explain 1470 if you feel it is necessary. Most intelligent AOs will already know that you would have scored above 1500 if you had 1 or 2 more tries.

If you take the October test, please do me favor and post your score on here once you get it. If you are able to take it I'm certain that your superscore will be above a 1500. As you can tell, I'm no worrywart. I'm going to call balls and strikes as I see them and be honest and logical.

Accepted Answer
09/04/2020 at 10:54PM

Hi there! This is a tricky situation because your score is in the middle 50% range for those schools, as it stands, but is on the lower end. It's hard to predict what scores will be like this year - one one hand, since schools are test-optional, we may see the middle 50% range rise because only top scorers will submit, so a lower score will stick out even more. On the other hand, students will have had fewer opportunities to test, and may submit lower "threshold" scores just to submit something. No one really knows!

If your extracurriculars and grades are absolutely stellar, and you know you can write strong essays, then you might consider leaving the score out, as those other accomplishments will speak for themselves. Also, take a look at what the chancing engine says for your demographic - a score for one demographic might be better or worse compared to another. If you're an under-represented minority, absolutely submit the score. If you're not, then maybe not to the very top schools (but yes to the others). Otherwise, if your academics are weaker, you might submit the score just to show you are academically-qualified (a 1470 in general is still a great score, and the 96th percentile).

If you decide to report the score, you don't have to explain it, but you can if you want. You might say in the Covid section of the Common App that you had signed up to take the SAT again, but it was canceled twice. No need for anything fancy.

If you don't decide to report, no need to mention test scores at all in your application. Explaining a score you didn't submit will just make admissions officers think you did really badly, when you didn't.

Hope this helps, and let me know if you have more questions!

[🎤 AUTHOR]@RaTe09/05/2020 at 10:26PM

Thank you! My GPA 3.92, and my ECs are regular–I have some leadership positions, but really no awards (beyond some within my school). In the country where I live there aren't any competitions like Science Olympiad. I have several AP scores with a score of 5. I haven't started my essay (not inspired yet!) but I am a standard-to-good writer. Given this information, what would I recommend I do about my SAT scores?

09/08/2020 at 01:30PM [edited]

Since you're an international student, I think you should go ahead and submit your score then. Unless you do the IB program or basically all APs (or come from an international school), admissions officers are less familiar with the rigor of your classes, so a good score in the middle 50% can back up your academics. Admissions officers will also know that it was harder for you to take the SAT, being in another country (fewer testing sites and dates).

09/09/2020 at 01:31PM

Just updating this thread with some new data that one of our founders analyzed. His advice is to submit any SAT scores within 60 points of the middle 50% (even under), so your 1470 would be perfectly fine. More info here:

09/04/2020 at 12:04AM

I would say to be mindful of putting your score onto your application. This is because you should ideally be at the 50th percentile or higher to make the academic threshold for the school. If your extracurriculars, essays, teacher recommendations, and etc. aren’t as strong as you’d like them to be, your SAT score will most likely hurt your application. However, if most of the other components of your application are strong, I’d say go for it. Also, yes, explaining your circumstances in the additional information section is a very good idea.

09/03/2020 at 03:13PM

I would recommend not sending it in. Ideally you want to be at at least a 1500 for those two universities, 1530+ optimally to be in great standing. You have the ability to go test-optional and unless you have absolutely stellar rigor/grades and extracurriculars your SAT score could do more harm than good. Your best bet is just register for any future SATs (Oct, Nov, Dec if possible) and take them. If you don’t want to re-take or prep more, just go test-optional.

09/03/2020 at 03:10PM

What are your extracurriculars and GPA. Also you can go test optional because this year due to COVID its not mandatory. For Stanford, if your extracurriculars are good then there is no need to send in your 1470(because its on the lower side) but if they aren't too good and your GPA is low you may need it to say that my academic intelligence is higher than what my GPA is so if you could drop them then I can give you a better answer. You don't need to explain it just opt for test optionality if you don't take it