Taking the SAT or ACT can be a stressful experience. You study for months, but you have only partial control over how test day ultimately goes. For example, you might get some bad news that same morning, which could negatively affect your performance.
Once you finish the test and go home, your stress may persist or worsen. You may be doubting yourself and wondering, "What did that word mean? Did I understand that reading passage? Did I use the right formula for that math problem?"
You may even question your performance to the point where you are considering canceling your scores. In such situations, there are important details to know regarding when and how to cancel your standardized test scores -- and why it is usually better not to do so.
A word of caution: Both the College Board, which administers the SAT, and the ACT organization reserve the right to cancel scores unilaterally in cases of academic dishonesty. So if you are considering cheating, think again.
When to Cancel Your ACT or SAT Score
You should cancel your ACT or SAT score only if you are sure you did terribly. For instance, if you became incredibly ill during the exam, had to leave without finishing it or filled out the answer sheet incorrectly, canceling your score may be the right choice.
Beware, however -- scores cannot be reinstated after a cancellation request has been submitted. Thus, this is not a decision to be taken lightly.
How to Cancel Your ACT or SAT Score
When you are certain you have underperformed on the ACT or SAT, have considered alternative courses of action and still want to cancel your test results, follow the procedures below.
To officially cancel your SAT scores so that they will not appear on any score reports, you must do so quickly -- before you know how you scored on the exam. You must fill out, sign and submit the SAT Request to Cancel Test Scores form either before leaving the testing site or by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on the Thursday following your exam day.
There is one timing exception. Students with disabilities who test at school may cancel their scores up until the Monday following one week after the published test date because of the extended window for school testing.
Also note that if it is a score cancellation because of sudden illness, the test proctor's signature on the form is required.
The process for cancelling an ACT score is less stringent. To delete your ACT score, you must notify the ACT of your decision in writing, and then a form will be mailed to you.
Why You Should Not Cancel Your ACT or SAT Score
Aside from the exceptional situations mentioned above, canceling your ACT or SAT score is ill-advised. One reason is that you may have done better than you think. It is human nature to fixate on blunders and ignore all that was done correctly.
Another reason not to cancel scores is that both the College Board and the ACT now superscore, allowing students to submit only their best scores for each test section if they tested two or more times.
What to Do When a College Requires Submission of All Test Scores
However, certain institutions such as Georgetown University normally require applicants to send in all their past scores, although Georgetown considers the highest scores when a student took either or both tests more than once. If you are applying to a college with this policy, it is better to cancel a potentially low score than to risk being denied admission.
In these exceptional cases, cancellation can actually be a strategy to protect your chances of acceptance to a college.
Unless something truly extraordinary happens on test day or you are applying to very specific colleges, the best thing to do is not cancel your score. Instead, wait to get your results and devise a plan from there.
If you did better than you thought, you will be left with a score that may help you get into your preferred college. If you did as poorly as you thought, it is still not the end of the world.
Time permitting, you can always consider testing again. If retesting is not possible, remember that standardized test scores comprise just one of a dozen or more factors in your college applications.
If there is any chance you are overreacting about how poorly you did on the SAT or ACT, it is better not to cancel your scores right away. Think carefully before you make this irreversible decision.