Q:

In May, I'll be taking the SAT for the first time. I understand that I can either have these scores sent to colleges now or wait and send in later scores. What should I base my decision on? What should I do if I get a great score in math and poor verbal and essay scores this time? -- Indecisive Junior

A:

We believe you're referring to Score Choice, the new SAT score-reporting feature. Score Choice is an option that allows you to choose by test date which SAT scores you send to colleges. The first thing that you should understand is that with Score Choice, only scores from an entire test will be sent. You cannot pick and choose individual SAT section scores (critical reading, math, writing) to send to colleges.

Score Choice allows you to put your best forward when sending scores to colleges. Before deciding to use Score Choice, you should be aware that some colleges still want test-takers to have all of their scores sent. Participating colleges display their SAT score-use practices on collegeboard.com, or you can look for them on each college's Web site. You should follow the score-use practices of the colleges to which you are applying.

In college guidebooks and on individual college Web sites, you should also be able to find the SAT score range of the freshmen who were admitted last year. If you are comfortable with how your scores fit within this range, then you should send all of your scores. Some colleges see this as a sign of interest.

If one or more of your scores is extremely low, you may want to delay sending your scores and retake the test. In this case, it's a good idea to devote some time to practicing for the test. You may find using the College Board's Question and Answer Service helpful. It gives you correct answers and scoring instructions for the last test you took. You can also order a copy of your answer sheet. Use My SAT Online Score Report to understand your score. And you can take advantage of some of the College Board's free test practice tools online.

If you're thinking of taking the SAT again, you should keep in mind that most students only see modest score increases upon taking the test a second time, and even smaller changes after that.