Most of us take the SAT while we are still in high school. But not everyone follows the so-called “traditional” route—straight from high school to college. In today’s world, more students are delaying their entry—later is becoming the norm.
We know many colleges require the SAT, so how long are your SAT scores valid? There is a lot of misinformation out there about this question. So let’s clear the confusion.
How Long Is Your SAT Score Valid?
Here’s the short answer—technically your SAT scores never expire. Your SAT scores are still “valid”—even if you took them in 1995, like me. The College Board website explains, “Once you have left high school and have not tested for a year, we archive your test scores and your responses to the SAT Questionnaire. However, they can be retrieved for reporting to you and to the colleges, universities, and scholarship programs you choose.”
So even if you were among the first to take the SAT in 1926, your scores are saved in the College Board “vault”—if you are 110 and applying for college, bravo for you!
The more accurate answer to how long your SAT scores are valid is a bit more complicated. You see, the SAT has gone through some big changes in recent years—once in 2005, then again in 2016.
How the SAT Has Changed
Before 2005, the maximum score on the SAT was 1600, and 90s kids like me had to study these terrible, awful things called analogies—ice is to cold, as fire is to __________. Except way less obvious and much more panic-inducing.
In 2005, the SAT did away with analogies, resulting in happy-dances and gleeful analogy-practice book-burnings across the nation. The top score now became 2400. Algebra II concepts were added to the math section. And a new writing section with a mandatory essay was added—promptly halting all those happy-dances.
Enter 2016. The SAT had been highly criticized for testing skills in isolation. So the College Board brought together their testing gurus and overhauled it. Reasoning and higher-level thinking skills were emphasized. The top score once again became 1600. And the essay portion changed from topical to textual analysis. It also became optional—although institutions still require it, so don’t happy-dance too hard.
How Change Affects Your Scores
What this means is depending on the year you took your test, scores are going to measure different aspects of your academic abilities. This makes it difficult for colleges and universities to accurately compare prospective students.
So, how long are your SAT scores valid?… It’s all up to the college or university you are sending them to.
You probably took the SATs in high school. So to find out if your SAT scores are still valid, you will need to do a little more investigation. If you have taken the test in recent years, it should simply be a matter of requesting your SAT scores through the College Board website.
If it has been 5 years or more since your test date, your target school will be notified. The College Board website points out that your score report will be sent with a “message explaining that they may be less valid predictors of college academic performance than more recent scores.”
This may or may not be a problem for the college or university. So how long SAT scores are valid ultimately comes down to the individual school. The key is to find out what is required for admission.
Admissions Requirements for “Non-traditional” Students
Every college or university has its own admissions requirements. Many will not take SAT scores older than 5 years. Others will accept SATs taken at any time. There are some schools that make exceptions for students who were in the military.
Some schools have even become test-optional—you can decide whether to send them your score. Others are test-flexible—they will take SAT scores or another academic indicator like AP exams. And at least one known school, Hampshire College, is test-blind—they don’t want you to send your scores at all.
Listen, if you took the test more than 5 years ago, don’t panic and immediately register for the SATs. Check the college admissions page first. Make sure you understand exactly what they require. If you are unable to find this information on their website, call the admissions office.
What If I Need to Order Older Test Scores?
If it has been over a year since you took the SAT, visit this College Board page that explains how to order your scores. You can fill out this archived score report order form and order by mail. Or you can call the number on their page. There will be a fee for this process.
Look, the key is to be informed—not to panic. Check with the college or university you are applying to. Make sure you understand how long your SAT scores are valid for that school. And in the unlikely case you have to take the SAT again, it’s okay. There are a lot of great resources and study options out there.
You have a goal. Don’t let anything, especially not a test, stop you. For those who have yet to take the SAT, check out our list of best test prep courses here.