15-Year Member
Jun 12, 2006
i have taken the test twice, without a prep course, and have only managed to get 650 on the math section. i know enough math to get at least a 700, but dont have many strategies to answer questions that have tricky wording. would it be worth it to take a prep course and take the test again? or is 650 good enough?
You can never take it to many times and it is hard to say what score is good enough. I got accepted straight out of high school and my scores were pretty low, many would say that I shouldn't have been accepted. I received a 550 on verbal and a 550 on the math section. I would take the test as many times as you can because nothing can hurt your chances.
BR2011: If you have scored 650 without serious preperation, I would target 700+ .

As you probably realize, the SAT scores are incredibly important in the candidate evaluation process. More important, I contend, than earning a varsity athlete letter. Yet for most candidates, the time spent preparing for the SAT is a very, very tiny fraction of the time spent on athletics.

I suspect that if someone came to you and said they wanted to be a state cross country champ but was only willing to invest a few hours a year to acheive it, you would laugh at them. Treat taking the SAT like getting ready to win a district, regional or state championship. Practice, practice and more practice. It will be boring, but beneficial. Remind yourself that your SAT performance could make the difference between getting, or not getting, into an academy.

Go to the local bookstore and invest some money in a couple SAT review and strategy books. Also get the books with the last 10 years of SAT tests. If you don't have the money, you might be able to get some at the library. Focus on the type of math problems that give you the most trouble. Do enough of them and they will get easier.

If you can't bring yourself to study individually, then hire a SAT tudor rather than take a generalized SAT prep course. The reason is that a tudor can focus on the areas you need to strengthen and not spend time reviewing areas you already know. Also, the tudor will work at your speed.

Good luck.
thanks for the advice. i think what i really need is strategies for SAT questions. its not the math i have trouble with, its the wording of some of the questions. i think a prep course could help me a lot.

one thing i was worried about though was i heard that after taking the test a certain number of times, some schools start to only take your one day scores rather than your best score from each section. i dont want to lose my verbal (630) and writing (640). does that Academy do this?
Aspen, your analogy is nice but imo misses the mark. Presumably, the SAT/ACT is a measurement of academic preparation and aptitude and achievement. While targeted preparation may help (remember, in 50%+ of cases, scores actually decline in repeat testing) with a few "tricks", becoming familiar with the tests, helping takers to relax a bit when the real race arrives, etc., the essence of preparation should come via algebra, geometry, writing classes and study which should entail many hours and far more time than track or Xcountry practice.

Nice thought though. But especially since the analogies part has been discontinued, it's tough to work "miracles" no matter what the SAT prep course purveyors contend. In this case the stats don't lie, but still liars (especially those desiring to sell courses, services, materials, etc.) do stats.
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BR2011 said:
thanks for the advice. i think what i really need is strategies for SAT questions. its not the math i have trouble with, its the wording of some of the questions. i think a prep course could help me a lot.

one thing i was worried about though was i heard that after taking the test a certain number of times, some schools start to only take your one day scores rather than your best score from each section. i dont want to lose my verbal (630) and writing (640). does that Academy do this?

The academies take your highest scores from each part of the test regardless of how many times you take it.
Aspen and bossf51 are both right. Therefore it is irresponsible to discourage retaking. There is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by retaking. USAFA09 got in with 550/550. What everyone needs to realize is that if they are qualified and don't get their area nomination, they go into a national "pool" for various available nominations. 550/550 may be good for a nomination in a particular congressional district but it is not competitive nationally.
Learn about guesswork strategy. Take sample tests to both guage the types of questions and to learn timing strategy. You may find that you are going too fast and are making a lot of stupid mistakes or are going too slow and not finishing. Either way, you now have the opportunity to correct your habits. Also, hopefully you will be taking math courses in the interim so your knowledge level will be increasing. ETS, the people who administer the SAT, claim an average of 60 point increases on retakes. Also, if you look at your results, they mention a range that you are in. How do you know that on the first take, you weren't in the bottom of the range. I personally know several USNA midshipmen who would not be at the Academy now had they not retaken the SATs several times. I have seen 150 point increases by doing nothing but using one of the strategy books.
The average SAT for midshipmen entering the Naval Academy directly out of high school has been in the high 1300s range.
Also, some students do better on the ACT. If your SATs are marginal, take it and see if you are one of those. The academies accept either.
You owe it to yourself to ensure that the best possible score of which you are capable is posted on your application. The academies make this possible by not penalizing multiple takes.
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There is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by retaking.


I got into USNA with 1150 combined (in 1986 scores). I had to go through NAPS first, but I got in. Took the SAT's a total of four times over two years.

would it be worth it to take a prep course and take the test again? or is 650 good enough?

If you want USAFA bad enough, the answer is simple, right? ;)

When I was applying, NOTHING was "good enough". I shot for perfection in everything. Never hit it, but I shot for it.

If you were 100 points from a perfect score now, I'd probably tell you something a little different.
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Zap, Did your scores go up at NAPS? I am seeing some incredible jumps from the NAPSters, and from the Foundation kids also.
I think that the academies are looking for a well rounded person, so SAT scores are not the only thing that is looked at. It all depends because with 550/550 I received a Vice Presidential nomination so I didn't get some small town nomination, I was going against the nation pretty much. Yes they are important and it never hurts to take them over again as many times as you want, but also realize that it is the whole person they are looking for... Good luck.
USAFA, Like you said, the academies look at the "whole person". A significant part of this whole person concept is SAT/ACT scores. To compensate for an 1100 SAT, the remainder of your package must have been truly awesome. Not many candidates could have the package that you obviously did. I would guess that you had very strong coursework at a very good high school. Out here in the small town America, very strong packages with 1100 SATs go to prep school for a year, if they're lucky. I will reiterate my original statement that 1100 SATs are not competitive on the national scale. With that said, I think your story is amazing. Congratulations
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I appreciate you congratulating me, but my package is not the amazing, I am the type of person who gives other students who feel that they are not competitive a chance. I was not top 10% of my class, I did not have a varsity letter in any sport, and my grades were alright with a weighted GPA of 3.8. The only thing that I had going for me what National Honor Society, holding a job my senior year, and countless hours of volunteer service, other than that I had an average package
USAFA09, Once candidates have passed the physical and medical requirements and have successfully completed the admissions board, they are considered "triple qualified". Historically, this group comprises approximately 2000 candidates. Nominating sources can either give the academy a primary candidate for each opening or they can present a list to the academy and allow them to make the final selection. The vast majority, around 80%, allow the academy, utilizing the "whole person" concept, to select the most qualified candidate. For the remaining sources who submit a primary candidate, so long as that candidate is "triple qualified, he/she is offered the appointment. I would imagine that for some of these selections, certain "out-of-the-box" considerations are made. Therefore, for minimally qualified candidates to gain nominations, they would have to be eligible for a nomination from one of these nominating sources. This is what I was alluding to in the above post, not small-town America. Additionally, all candidates who don't obtain their area nomination and are placed in the "pool" are selected by the academy from the most qualified of the remaining qualifed candidates. I think that perhaps you are conveying a sense of false hope to candidates who have no control over how their nominating source presents their selection. Again, I relay my congratulations. There was something in your package that impressed the VP's selection committee.
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I am not trying to convey a sense of false hope to candidates all I am trying to do is show other students that there is a chance. If I had given up each time I was told that I was not competitive enough for the Academy then I would never have known if I could have made it or not. By not giving up I took a chance and for me it worked out. I am not saying that it will work out for everyone, because that is not possible. All I am trying to do is give students a little hope in regards to them applying. With all the statements made to people saying that they are not near qualified enough there needs to be someone who has some sense of hope that they can make it, because it does happen. I think that it is a shame that people give up when someone says that their scores aren't high enough or they don't have a high enough GPA or need to play 3 more sports. Instead I am showing them that there is a chance and just because someone says that they don't look competitive doesn't mean they should throw away the application and look for a different college. Yes it might cause people to think that they can get in, but it never hurts to shoot for a dream.
USAFA09, You are absolutely right about not giving up. How many times did you take the SATs? However,this thread is about someone asking for advice who felt that he had not done his best on the Math portion of the SAT and was asking if his score was "good enough", an entirely different scenario. Perhaps I was being too pragmatic and only focusing on the question that was put before the forum. In response to not giving up, I would say that any high school senior with a 1100 SAT and medically qualled could make it to one of the academies if they put forth their best effort and really wanted it.
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None are discouraging motivated students from taking, retaking the exam. But no matter anyone's anecdotal evidence, here's what the SAT folks say ...

"You may be wondering if you should take the test again, and whether your scores will change if you do so. Here are some guidelines that may help you decide:

Overall, 55% of juniors taking the test improved their scores as seniors, 35% had their scores decrease, and 10% had no change. On average, juniors repeating the SAT as seniors improved their verbal scores by about 12 points and their math scores by about 13 points. About 1 in 25 gained 100 or more points on verbal or math, and about 1 in 90 lost 100 or more points Your score report shows the percentage of students with the same verbal or math scores who scored higher, lower, and the same when they took the SAT again, as well as the average number of points gained or lost. Use this information when deciding whether or not to test again."

Of course retake it! That's the short, encouraging answer to the question. Statistically it will be 4 of 100 who improve their score 100 points or more. And only 1 of 100 who will drop 100+ points. The point is ... on average, there are very few "miracles" Nor should there be. This is not supposed to be a test one can "cram" for. It's supposed to reflect cumulative knowledge and potential aptitude, reflecting many hours of already given prep time.

This is not intended to discourage or encourage. The question was what are the chances of improvement ... should I retake?

Of course. Nothing to lose. But don't bet the ranch that you'll do bettern 25 points from last time. And nearly half will score lower.

It's simply disingenuous and not true to imply that this component is just working a little harder, getting a little better strategy, taking a short course in test taking, etc.

Z has it right. Work on the package, and do your best always.

P.S. Mine has improved his scores 200 pts.+ since first taking the test. And you know what? He's gonna give it another go. Why not as long as the ol' man can shell out $60 or whatever they zing you for on this.
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Whistle, I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. First off, in a previous post, you guard us against stats; "In this case the stats don't lie, but still liars do stats." Then you overwhelm us with SATs own statistics. The College Boards have to do everything they can, short of outright lying, to keep from admitting that retaking the SATs will improve scores. Therefore, they don't even gather sufficient data to prove one way or the other. If they admitted that retaking improves scores (and subsequent college admissions), they have just made the SATs elitist and discriminatory against socioeconomically disadvantaged minorities ("Why not as long as the ol' man can shell out $60 or whatever they zing you for on this"). I think in most schools, students are encouraged to take the exam twice, first in their junior year, making the first take, in essence, a practice run, and then again, "for real", in their senior year. The vast majority of retakes are simply that, a retake with no, or very little, other outside studying. Now let's assume that 10%-15% have the necessary time and desire to devote to really studying to improve their scores. 10% of the 1 in 25 who raised their scores by 100 points or more now becomes 1 in 2.5 who did it through a dedicated effort. From the 25 or so SATs I see each year, I don't think my assumptions are too far off the mark.
Lastly, you guard us against anecdotal evidence, but then provide us your own by stating your son increased his scores by over 200 points. How do you account for this increase?
The academies place, I think possibly, undue emphasis on SATs and encourages retakes. Candidates should "play the game" as long as the ol' man is willing to shell out the money. My "anecdotal" evidence is that it pays off.
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I think any kid who is not happy with his/her SAT scores should take the ACT. This is a different test and some kids do much better on it than the SAT's. In fact some very bright kids just don't do well on the SAT's and perform much better on the ACT's.

Also, everyone needs to be aware that the college board has changed the SAT test. Verbal is now critical reading and the content of the test has changed. The content of the math test has changed as well. As far a knowledge goes, you only need to know algebra I and basic geometry - the math SAT is a reasoning test- not a knowledge test - they even give you all the formulas you need. But, it makes sense that as kids get older and mature their reasoning abilities increase and they certainly can do better.

USNA69 is correct in that you all should take the collegeboard's statistics with a grain of salt.....they have increased the price of their test incredibly in the past couple of years and have a near monopoly in the testing market...

The test is ridiculously long, expensive and inconvienent. My daughter had to take it in May on the day of a county track meet.... and did not get out of the test until 1:20 pm. She will most likely be in playoffs with her field hockey team for the October test.

Also: candidates need to be aware that a decent SAT score may be needed for nomination. One of our senators requires a 1600 SAT score (all 3 tests) to be considered for an interview. The other wants to see a 600 verbal and a 640 math score for an interview. Our cp has no such requirement.
My son took the SAT in May of this year. He sat for the test again in June less than 30 days later. Since this was his last chance to improve his SAT scores before seeking a nomination, I hired a personal tutor (who had gotten a perfect score on the SAT 10 years earlier) for him and told the tutor to concentrate on Critical Reading section but to cover everything. This amounted to 3 sessions totaling 7 hours in the last week before the June exam.

My son took the test and afterwards said: "I think I got them all right on the Math section. I have no idea how I did on the other sections." After I pressed him on the math comment he said, "well there was one that I wasn't sure about..."

When the results came out his Math score went down 40 points, and his Critical reading went up 40 points; his writing section went up 110 points.

So he is obviously being fooled by what I call counterfeit answers on the math section - which should be correctable.

The good news is that even though his Math and CR sections totaled the same score - in reality this was a 40 point win for him, because everyone will mix and match his highest scores in each section to get his overall score. This is good enough to win a nomination - mission accomplished so far as the nomination goes.

His composite SAT score is now 710M, 650CR and 570 writing - solid not but not exceptional. I'm confident that with help he can raise his math score another 40 points in October this will put him in the 1400 range. If he studies his vocab, I bet he can bump his CR score too. But it's up to him.

Taking the test over is a free lunch - they only way to lose is not to play.
In my day, if you took the test over they averaged the scores! - so you could do worse. Now-a-days they cherry pick the best scores. So the worst that can happen is that you wasted a Saturday morning and $40.

I have heard that some colleges look down on applicants who take the exam more than 3 times, but this isn't the case at the Service Academies. And even if some colleges do operate this way - what's the worst that can happen? They will probably just ignore the results from your last test - so again you are no worse off.

This is my two cents worth.

What you son has going for him is a high Math score vs his CR score. The academies definitely want to see a high math score. To the best of my knowledge none of the academies are looking at the CW score... I know West Point definitely is not. His scores are definitely decent and if he thinks he is just going to be sleeping in on October 14th and has an extra $40 kicking around then he might as well see if he can raise his CR score.... he also will have been back in school for a month or two by then.