How to boost your SAT score as a disadvantaged student: report

A recent research working paper suggests a surprisingly easy way to level the playing field in college admissions: “take the SAT early and often.”

According to a new study, author Sahil Chinoy states in this New York Times article, disadvantaged students, unlike white, Asian-American, and affluent students, are less likely to retake the SAT.

Since disadvantaged students receive less help in navigating college applications, Chinoy writes, they may not be aware of the options available to them. Encouraging students to take the SAT early, and to take the test more than once, may help close a significant portion of the income and racial gap in college admissions.

A study conducted by Goodman, Gurantz, and Smith shows that retaking the SAT improved scores by an average of 90 points out of a possible 2400. 

Students who retook the SAT were more likely to enroll in a four-year college, which in turn increased their likelihood of graduating with a degree.

Interestingly, “left-digit bias” affected the likelihood of a student retaking the SAT. So while there may be little difference in a student’s ability or preparedness if they score 1880 versus 1900, this small difference in score may push some students to retake the test.

Additionally, some students may be unaware that you can take the SAT “as many times as you want,” Chinoy writes.

Goodman’s, Gurantz’s, and Smith’s research suggests that disadvantaged students tend to overestimate costs, miss important deadlines, and may avoid applying to selective colleges that they are qualified to attend.

The College Board offers SAT fee waivers for students who qualify for subsidized meals at school. While this waiver allows students to retake the SAT twice and send their score to colleges at no cost, only half of students who used a waiver retook the SAT, indicating that financial barriers are not “the whole story,” Chinoy writes. 

The study’s authors also encourage students to take the SAT earlier, Chinoy writes. More than 40% of minority SAT-takers first took the SAT in the 12th grade, whereas the average student first takes the test in the 11th grade.

For more information, read the original New York Times article.

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