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For high school students, the SAT and ACT are the gateway to their college futures. With the tests playing a crucial role in both college admissions and scholarships, they can be critical for low-income students hoping to earn a college degree. Now, new research from Oded Gurantz, assistant professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, suggests that high school students should take the SAT early and often.

“Looking at the data, it is clear that too many students are unaware that they have more than one shot when it comes to college entrance exams,” Gurantz said. “Historically underrepresented students – those who are low-income, first-generation, or minorities – are less likely to retake the SAT, and encouraging them to retake can help close the college enrollment gap and level the playing field in higher education.”

Gurantz and his co-authors, Joshua Goodman, associate professor at Harvard, and Jonathan Smith, assistant professor at Georgia State, studied more than 10 million students who took the SAT and analyzed the effects that retaking the exam had on students’ scores. They found that retaking the SAT improved admissions-relevant scores by nearly 90 points. Additionally, they found that students who retook the test were more likely to enroll in a four-year university.

For this working paper, the economists analyzed data from the SAT only. Gurantz says that the same findings would likely apply to the ACT; both standardized tests can be retaken.

“Typing ‘retaking the SAT’ into Google yields auto-complete suggestions like, ‘How many times are you allowed to take the SAT?’ and ‘Can you retake the SAT?,” Gurantz said. “This suggests that many students do not understand the process and how retaking the SAT is completely acceptable.”

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