You have worked hard and studied intently. The time came to take your test. Now, you hold your scores in your hand. One of the benefits of the SAT and other college entrance exams is the fact that you can retake them if you do not like your score. While you will need to pay for a second test, it is an option if your scores aren’t up to muster. But how can you decide? Is your score good enough, or should you consider retaking it. Here’s how you can make this determination.

First, Understand the Scoring

The SAT has a score range of 400 to 1600, with 1600 being a perfect score. The section scores are each half of that. You can score 200-800 for both the Math and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections. The higher your score, the better you did on the overall test.

Your test scoring document will also give your scores a percentile ranking. This number tells you what percent of students your scores were higher than. This is not the same as a grade percent. If you scored in the 75th percentile, you did quite well, scoring better than 75 percent of test takers.

What Score Is Average?

Few people are able to score perfectly on the ACT. An average score for the composite test is 1068, which breaks down to 531 for Math and 536 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. If you score better than that, you are better than average. A score of 1200 is in the 74th percentile and just 50 points more at 1250 places the test taker in the 81st percentile. To score in the 94th percentile, which is the top 6 percent, you need a 1400, which is still 200 points less than perfect.

What Score Do You Need?

So what score do you need? The answer will depend on your goals. What type of school are you trying to get into? Is it highly competitive? If it is competitive, then a higher SAT score, particularly on the test that most applies to your area of study, will help your application stand out. Still, if you are in the 75th percentile or higher, you are in good shape. Retaking the test may give you a few more points, but they may not be necessary to make your application successful. Yet if other parts of your application fail, even a perfect score may not be enough. On the other hand, many colleges no longer look at SAT scores, and if yours is one of those, it may not even matter for your chosen school.

Second, consider any merit-based scholarship opportunities you are trying to get. These may publish minimum scores for qualification. If yours do not measure up, then it is time to retake.

In general, unless you are trying to get in to a highly competitive program, a score of 1400 or higher will give you plenty of competitive edge. On the lower end of the scale, if you score at the 25th percentile or lower, you may struggle to get accepted into any program that looks at test scores, and retaking is a wise strategy, but only with some additional test prep first. Ultimately, the choice is up to you and should be made considering all of your goals and the requirements of your chosen school.