The findings suggest a relatively cost-effective way to get more students, especially students from underrepresented groups, into four-year colleges, the researchers who published the paper say.
Higher-income white and Asian-American students retake the SAT at a much higher frequency than low-income students or students of other races. And those retakes overwhelmingly lead to a higher maximum score, the researchers found, even when controlling for the fact that students who retake the test might have certain advantages, or be more academically motivated, than students who don’t retake.
"If you’re applying to colleges that are only going to consider your maximum SAT score, then it cannot hurt, and will probably help you, to retake the SAT and therefore give yourself a shot at a higher score,” says Joshua Goodman, an education economist at the Harvard Kennedy School and one of the paper’s authors. The vast majority of four-year colleges only consider a student’s maximum SAT score — either the highest overall score or a mix and match of personal bests for each section.
For students on the cusp of being able to get into a four-year college, the extra points from a retake can make all the difference, Goodman says, bringing scores up to an admissible threshold. Students who retook the SAT were more likely to enroll in a four-year school, likely because of their higher scores.