SAT trouble -- need advice


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Oct 20, 2008
I don't know where else to post this -- and I am having trouble getting info. in person. My son's 3rd attempt at the SAT - to improve math score -- verbal is fine -- his score went down! Very disappointing. Should we:

Write to everyone (MOC's, academies, rotc reps) and say - I was disappointed to learn my SAT score for math did not go up - but I am not giving up and am scheduled to take it again in Dec. (and then tutor, study, crazy til then -- football season will be over which allows more time too)


Take what we have in SAT and go take the ACT. See if he does better on that.

I might as well say -- the SAT was LOW -- 510. He knows the math - he knows he can do it, but it just doesn't come out that way, and it has always been that way for standardized tests. He is a good student -- not 4.0 but close, 5 varsity letters, lots of leadership and comm. service -- has been working all his high school career for this.

Should we talk to the BGO or the Admissions office at WP and just say - hey -- i am trying as hard as i can. I don't give up.

Or should we go with what we have and let the chips fall where they may.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. We go to a small school and the tutor he used for the SAT prep when his score DID go up is unavailable now. I have no more money and very little time to figure out what to do and go in that direction. So Kaplan or one of those is out. I have math tutors for him, but I need to figure out if he should even try again. Or bag that and go check out the ACT book from the library.

My son does not know about this - he has a game today and I thought if I could gather some info we could all sit and figure out what he wants to do tomorrow -- no sense getting him upset before an away game when he can't do anything anyway.
I think you should have him study like crazy, take the SAT again, and also take the ACT. A call to admissions would not hurt...they aren't going to pull hhis file and say he can't come in and put a big red X on it....always good to ask them their opinion.
Try ACT. Do sample practice ACT tests so you know what to expect. You don't get penalized for wrong answers on ACT so always best to guess. Also, our son found that on science he really did not need to spend time reading the passage - just go straight to the graphs.
A few thoughts -- and I post them publicly in the hopes others with the same issue (and I know they're out there) will also be able to see them.

First, I would contact your BGO. BGOs aren't simply there to interview. We are there as resources and can help people strategize, etc. He/she knows or will come to know your son better than anyone on these boards and may have some ideas based on that knowledge that the rest of us don't have.

Second, there is more to USNA admissions that SAT scores. They do count. They are important. But an A in AP Calculus and a great rec from his math teacher could well make up for a lower math SAT.

Third, if attending a SA is your son's dream, he really needs to focus on improving his score (because you want to do your very best on everything). I'm all for sports, ECAs (extra-curriculars), etc. But need to prioritize and, if you -- and his BGO-- believe math SAT score is a significant weakness, improving it needs to be your son's top priority (after doing well in his h.s. classes).

I can relate because my first math SAT (oh so many years ago) was 520. These were the days before Kaplan, etc. So I devoted one hour every single night to working on math SATs and several hours each weekend. I got the (old) Barron's books and practiced, practiced, practiced. I managed to raise my score nearly 200 points - proving it can be done. I'm sure that, today, there are more modern methods of preparation. If you can afford a course or a tutor, that may be an option. If not, personal preparation on a DAILY basis, starting NOW is essential (and, actually is necessary even if there is a course or tutor involved).

Fourth, consider the ACT. Some people do better on it, some don't. Your son might try some sample tests (either actual old tests if they're released or some from the books) and see how he does -- whether the different approach seems much easier or the same.

USNA only considers your highest verbal and math scores. They recognize scores can go up and down and don't penalize you if they go down. MOCs typically take the highest scores as well, but that depends on the MOC. I don't think you need to approach them proactively; your son should be prepared to discuss the issue verbally in an interview IF it comes up.

Best of luck to both of you.
I don't think you need to approach them proactively; your son should be prepared to discuss the issue verbally in an interview IF it comes up.
Good Point - Accentuate the positive!!
Hi all!

Just "lurking" here.

My counterpart in Navy Blues from the USNA Class of 1985 is absolutely correct! Heck, what he says applies to USAFA as well!

Take BOTH tests...that's a biggie I have to tell my AFA candidates. The academy will look at both and take the BEST and they have a method of evaluating them different from what we all would expect. Don't try to "second guess" the admissions folks; it'll just give you a headache! :smile:

USNA is right on; great post!


Thanks so much to everyone who responded! I can't believe how wonderful everyone is on this board!! We had the big meeting with our son and he wants to go at it again --- re-taking the SAT in Dec. and also to take the ACT in Dec. as well. He has decided - since football is almost done, that he will take the 2 hours each day that has been devoted to football and devote it to working on prep. Unfortunately everyone -- USNA, USMA, ROTC and all the MOC's have been sent his scores. So, they will see how low he is. Should he write to each office and tell them he was disappointed he did not perform as well as he could have and that he has a plan of attack and will re-take in Dec.? I am worried that MOC's will decide whether or not to give him an interview based on his scores if they do not know he is taking them again. And if we should write, should he email or snail mail these letters. Phone calls are difficult because he is in school all day and it is hard to call the offices when they are open. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

I assume that your MOCs do not offer interviews to all candidates (some do, some don't). If you don't know this for a fact, you might check with your son's BGO (who may or may not know) or even a blind call to your MOC's office (they may or may not tell you). If your MOCs interview everyone, then there is no issue.

I also assume that you live in a competitive geographic state and/or district, such that there are many more applicants than noms.

The above assumptions aside, this is a somewhat difficult question because the MOCs will probably make their decisions on noms (not just interviews) before your son retakes his tests, let alone before he gets his new scores. Thus, there is a risk that the only thing calling/writing at this point will do is highlight his low score. And, there's no guarantee his score will go up, so telling them that he will retake the SAT and take the ACT "only" goes to his motivation; i.e., it doesn't assure the nom committee that it will improve.

There's no way I can properly advise you as I don't have enough information on your son's overall "package." If it's generally strong (tough courses, high class rank, good athletics, leadership in ECAs) and his only/major weakness is his math SAT, I think I'd not call, hope for the best re an interview, and raise the issue (as appropriate) in the interview.

You might have your son check with his BGO, who has more detailed knowledge about your son's particular situation as well as how things work in your geographic area. As I've noted frequently, BGOs are here to do more than the interview and a good BGO can be invaluable with these types of questions.

If I were you I would definately try a sample ACT test to see how he does. Here is a website that helped me a lot. They have S.A.T, ACT and a lot of other fairly accurate tests. Also, has a practice SAT test that is pretty much the same as the real tests. Last, the first time I took the SAT I didn't do very well. I used Kaplins Premium book and brought my math score up 100 points, you might be able to get one off of ebay. The SAT is a reasoning test, so being relaxed and confident has just as much as anything else to do with the final score. If he really wants a good score, he can get one. Best of luck to you!!!!
Thank you. Just about the time my son was gearing up to hit the SAT and ACT books 2 hours a day, we got a letter accepting him to NAPS -- so no more SAT's!!!! He is thrilled, we think it is the best case scenario for him and I am ready to sell my never used SAT and ACT books on ebay!!
Take the ACT too. Both SAT and ACT have online tests for practice that your high school college counselors can get you access to. Also, the library has test books that you can borrow and work from. It's all about memorizing formulas. Work the formulas.

I sense that a score below 600 on MATH does not put you in a favorable light for USNA admissions. It's because the math and science courses there are also very tough. Have you considered a NAPS option? Express your willingness to your BGO and Admissions as they look favorably on applicants who are willing to do the extra work to get to their ultimate goal.
Good Luck. Study Hard.
My daughter is an A student.. but these test stress her out..... so much

She is signed up for the January SAT and the February ACT

(she took the ACT in 4/08, 9/08 and 10/08)
(she took the SAT in 03/08 and 10/08)

just doing whatever to get the scores up... she might almost be an expert at them :)
SAT repeated attempts

Great for your daughter to take multiple tests. Practice will make her at ease and hopefully boost the scores.
Good Luck.
My daughter always had an extremely high GPA and great grades and then crashed and burned on standardized tests. I can sympathize with you. She took the SAT's 4 times and was signed up for a 5th. We got to the point where we didn't even tell anyone anymore she was taking them "again" because they thought we were just crazy- lol. Know exactly what you are going through.

You do what is best for her. If that is what it takes, that's what it takes. :biggrin:

In fairness, standardized tests are only one metric used by SAs. They closely look at class rank, courses taken, grades in those courses, and teacher recs -- as well as SATs/ACTs -- to evaluate academics. So, not doing exceptionally well isn't fatal. However, because USNA takes the top scores, most people who don't do as well as they would have liked decide to take them again & again.