Though the SAT doesn’t cost as much as graduate-level tests, such as the LSAT and GMAT, there are still fees associated with it. The cost of the SAT is something that many students don’t think about, but it can nonetheless be an important aspect of the test-taking process, especially for families working under tight budgetary constraints. In this post, we’ll go over all of the costs that you might encounter during the process of registering for and taking the SAT, with the goal of answering the question “how much does the SAT cost?” Let’s dive in.
What is the SAT?
The SAT is one of the two standardized tests utilized by colleges during the admissions process, with the other being the ACT. Comprised of four sections that contain a mix of multiple-choice questions and grid-in math problems, the SAT has a maximum possible composite score of 1600 points. The test bordered on a mandatory rite of passage for high school juniors and seniors for many years; despite the current proliferation of test-optional admissions policies prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of aspiring college freshmen still sit for the SAT each year, oftentimes more than once.
What are the costs associated with the SAT?
Though there is no single massive fee that comes along with the process of registering for and taking the SAT, there are a number of smaller costs that can add up. Some are mandatory, while others are only incurred in the event that a student needs a particular service, such as late registration; whether required or optional, many of the costs can be reduced or eliminated entirely through the use of a fee waiver. These costs fall generally into three categories:
- Registration Fee: This is the flat cost to sign up for the test.
- Additional Registration Fees: These are costs that are only incurred if the student needs to go outside of the normal registration process in some way, such as by registering late or by changing test centers after registration.
- Score Service Fees: These fees are only incurred after a student takes the test and are associated with score-report-related actions, such as purchasing additional score reports.
We’ll go over each of these categories in more detail below, so keep reading for more information.
Why do the costs for the SAT matter?
For some students, these numbers might seem insignificant: after all, if your family is already spending hundreds of dollars on preparation for the SAT, you’re unlikely to balk at the prospect of a $60 registration fee. There are many other students who do need to be conscious of these costs, however. And at the end of the day, whether $60 feels like a big deal to you or not, nobody likes to be surprised by financial commitments they didn’t know they would have to make. We want to be sure that you’re as informed as possible about all potential costs as you begin the process of preparing for and taking the SAT.
So how much DOES it cost to take the SAT?
SAT Registration: Mandatory Costs
The only mandatory cost associated with the SAT is the registration fee, which is a flat fee of $60 for domestic testers. (Note that if you’re taking the SAT outside of the United States, you’ll also be charged a $43 regional fee and potentially a $24 test center fee, depending on where you test.)
The cost of this registration fee can be eliminated by accepting a fee waiver if you’re eligible for one; we’ll explore the eligibility requirements for fee waivers and the process of accepting a fee waiver later in this post.
SAT Registration: Non-Mandatory Add-on Costs
Though the only cost you’ll be required to pay in order to take the SAT is the registration fee mentioned above, there are a number of other fees that you can be charged if you deviate from the regular registration process in one of several ways. These are outlined below.
- Late Registration: If you sign up for the SAT after the regular registration deadline for your test date but before the late registration deadline (at which point registration closes entirely), you’ll be charged a late registration fee of $30.
- Change Test Center: If you change the location where you’ll be taking the test after registering, you’ll be charged a test center change fee of $25.
- Cancel Registration: If you cancel your registration after signing up for the test, you’ll be charged a cancellation fee of $25.
- Cancel Registration Late: If you cancel your registration after the change deadline for your test date, you’ll be charged a late cancellation fee of $35.
Post-Test Services and Costs
Once you’ve registered for and taken the SAT, paying all relevant fees along the way, you’re almost in the clear as far as potential costs are concerned. There is still one more category of costs for which you might be on the hook, however: the score service fees. These are the expenses that are associated with sending scores to colleges, accessing additional details about the test that you took, and getting your scores verified by hand; I’ve outlined them below in more detail.
- Additional Score Reports: When you take the SAT, you automatically qualify for four free score reports to be sent with college applications (so long as you request those reports within 9 days of your test date). If you need more than those four free reports, however, or if you request a report after that 9-day grace period, you’ll be charged a $12 fee per score report.
- Rush Reports: If you took the SAT very close to the date when some or all of your college applications are due, you may need your scores sent to schools faster than the regular delivery pace. If that’s the case, you can request that your score report(s) be rushed, which means that your results will be sent within 1-4 business days of being released. Doing this isn’t exactly cheap, however: you’ll be responsible for an additional $31 fee per score report.
- Get Scores by Phone: If you need to access your SAT scores by phone rather than online through your College Board account, you can do so by calling one of College Board’s support lines. To get your scores in this way, you’ll be charged $15 per phone call. Note that you’ll need to pay this fee by credit card at the time of the call.
- Archived Scores: Some students opt to take time off after high school to travel; others may want or need to work for a period of time before applying to colleges. Whatever the reason, once you’re out of high school and haven’t taken the SAT for a year, College Board will archive your SAT scores and charge you a fee to unarchive them. Don’t ask me why this is necessary; I can only assume that it covers the cost of hiring Indiana freaking Jones to descend into the depths of College Board’s basement and retrieve your results. Regardless of College Board’s justification, accessing these old SAT scores will cost you an additional $31 per score report.
- SAT Student Answer Service (SAS) or Question-and-Answer Service (QAS): For each test date, College Board offers either an SAS analysis or a QAS analysis, depending on when the test is administered. The SAS analysis includes information about which questions you missed in each section, as well as what types those questions were and how difficult they were. The QAS analysis includes all of that information plus the actual questions from the test that you took. Both of these services are valuable for students who intend to take the test again, as they allow you to analyze your performance and factor it into your future prep. The QAS is exponentially more useful than the SAS, however, as it gives you the ability to actually review the specific questions that you missed; because of this, if you’re prepping for the SAT on a budget, I would wait to spend money on these services until a test date when the QAS is available. Both of these services will cost you $16 per test date.
- Hand Score Verification: If you receive your results and your score is dramatically lower than you expected, it’s possible (though unlikely) that you made a mechanical mistake on your answer sheet that caused the machine to score it incorrectly. For example, if you accidentally smeared pencil lead across the bubbles on some questions, that could lead to those questions being rendered unscorable and therefore cause them not to contribute points to your raw score. If you think something like this might have happened on your test, you can request that your answer sheet be rescored by hand; it will cost you $55 per rescoring and can only be performed once per test.
How to Pay for the SAT
What’s an SAT fee waiver, and how do I get one?
The fee waiver is a benefit that College Board offers to students who meet certain criteria related to financial need. It lowers and sometimes even eliminates the various costs associated with taking the SAT, with the goal of ensuring that students of all backgrounds and income levels are able to use SAT scores during the college application process.
There are a number of benefits that are included with a fee waiver; I’ve listed a few of the most significant below.
- No registration fee for two SAT test dates of your choice
- Unlimited score reports sent to colleges
- Two chances to access SAS or QAS reports
- No cancellation fees
The first step to gaining a fee waiver in order to reduce the cost for the SAT is simply to be eligible. College Board lists a number of criteria on their website, most of which are related to the income level or housing status of the student and/or their family; meeting one or more of these criteria means that you’re eligible for a fee waiver.
If you are eligible to receive a fee waiver, the next step is to accept it. You’ll do this by logging into your College Board account and going to the My SAT page. Once you’ve accepted your fee waiver, make sure to activate its benefits whenever you’re prompted to do so, including during the process of registering for an SAT test date. Talk to your college counselor for more information about accepting and utilizing an SAT fee waiver.
How can I pay for the SAT?
You’ll submit payment for your SAT registration fee and any additional costs (late registration fee, answer service if you’re signing up for it in advance) at the time that you register for the test. Note that you can also purchase your answer service analysis after registration and pay for it at that time.
Regardless of when you pay each cost, you have several options as far as how to pay for the SAT:
- American Express
How can I save money on SAT costs?
If you’re concerned about how much the SAT costs, the first thing you should do is check to see whether you’re eligible for a fee waiver; accepting a fee waiver will dramatically reduce the costs associated with registering for and taking the SAT. See the section above concerning fee waivers, and talk to your college counselor for more information.
Even if you’re not eligible to receive a fee waiver, there are still some steps you can take to minimize the financial outlay attached to the SAT:
- Confirm the details of your registration before you register. Many non-mandatory SAT fees are only assessed if you change something after registering for the test. Before you sign up, make sure you’ll be in town on the date of your test and that you’ll have time beforehand to prepare, and confirm that the test center where you’re registering is indeed the closest one.
- Don’t register late. This seems obvious, but it’s very easy for people to lose track of registration deadlines in the casual chaos of everyday life. Make sure you’re tracking test dates as far in advance as possible and that you know the regular registration deadline for each date you’re considering. Not only will registering early ensure that you don’t pay a late fee, it may also give you more choices when it comes to test centers, which feeds back into the previous bullet point.
- Don’t spend money on the Student Answer Service (SAS). Don’t get me wrong: buying the SAS is usually better than not buying it. Though it doesn’t provide a ton of information about your performance on specific questions, it can still be helpful for your future prep: knowing which Reading passage cost you the most points, for example, can tell you where you should be focusing your practice time in that section moving forward. If you’re cost-conscious, however, you should keep in mind that the Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) provides significantly more helpful information and costs the same amount as the SAS; because of that, you may be better off waiting to pay for an answer service until a test date when College Board offers the QAS.
A Few Additional Notes on SAT Fees
Can I get a refund on my SAT fees?
Yes and no. There are some SAT costs that will be refunded; these include…
- Registration fee: As long as you cancel your registration by 11:59pm EST on the Thursday before your test date, you’ll receive a full refund of your registration fee.
- Additional score report fees: If you’re absent on test day, College Board will refund the cost of any score reports that you ordered with registration.
- Student Answer Service cost: If you miss your test or cancel your order before it’s processed, you’ll receive a refund in the amount that you paid for the SAS.
There are some caveats, however. Certain costs, such as rush score report fees, won’t be refunded. Additionally, though cancelling your test registration will get you a refund of your registration fee, it will also incur a cancellation fee, as I detailed earlier in this post. Check out College Board’s refunds page for more details.
How much is it to take the SAT internationally?
Though most fees are consistent, there is one major difference in the cost of the SAT for international students versus domestic students. Unfortunately, that difference happens to be in the only mandatory cost: the registration fee. If you sign up to take the SAT outside of the US, you’ll be charged the standard $60 registration fee, plus a $43 regional fee; you’ll also potentially need to pay a $24 test center fee depending on where you test. Thankfully, after you register, you’ll find that all other costs are the same for international students as they are for domestic students.
Though there isn’t one massive cost associated with taking the SAT, there are a number of smaller costs that can add up. Registering for the SAT requires payment of a mandatory $60 registration fee for domestic students, plus additional charges for international students. This is the only required fee; however, if you deviate from the regular registration process in any way, you may be charged an additional fee.
Most SAT costs can be reduced or eliminated entirely through the use of a fee waiver. If you’re concerned about the cost to take the SAT, make sure you talk to your college counselor about whether you might be eligible to receive a fee waiver.
The best way to avoid paying too much for the SAT is to plan ahead. If you know you’ll need SAT scores for your college applications, or even if you think you might, don’t wait until the last minute to register. Get ahead of the process as much as possible so that you can keep costs to a minimum.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to pay for the SAT every time you take it?
Unfortunately, yes. You’ll be charged the registration fee each time you sign up for a test date, as well as any additional fees that you incur along the way (such as a cancellation fee). If you have a fee waiver, however, you won’t have to pay a registration fee for your first two test dates.
Can you take the SAT without paying?
Yes, but only if you have a fee waiver. Fee waivers reduce or eliminate most costs associated with taking the SAT. For more details, see the section of this post that covers fee waivers, and talk to your college counselor to see if you might be eligible.
Should you take the SAT multiple times?
If you’re not happy with how your first set of scores lines up with the admissions statistics for your preferred colleges, or if you think you can do better and potentially make yourself an attractive applicant to a wider range of schools, then absolutely! Most students (approximately 2 out of 3, according to College Board’s data) improve their scores when taking the SAT a second time.
How many times can you take the SAT?
There is no limit on how many times you can take the SAT, so feel free to sit for tests as many times as your heart desires. It is worth noting that many students find that their score improvement slows after about three test dates, and it’s also important to remember that preparing for this test is work; make sure you’re not prioritizing the SAT to the extent that you compromise either the other important aspects of your application, such as grades and extracurricular activities, or your mental well-being.
What happens if I retake the SAT and get a lower score?
Generally speaking, nothing. If you’ve taken the test multiple times, College Board allows you to choose which scores you submit to schools; if you test in March and get a 1440, then test again in May and get a 1420, you can simply choose to send only the March score with your applications. Do note, however, that some schools request that you send all SAT scores with your application even though College Board gives you the option to do otherwise. Make sure you talk with your college counselor about the SAT score policies of the schools you’re considering.
Can you take the SAT online?
If you’re an international student, then yes; in fact, you’ll have to take the SAT online unless you have a special accommodation that allows you to take a paper test. It’s important to note, however, that the online SAT currently being offered to international students is not the same as the SAT that has been administered since 2016—it has a different format and different question-types. Make sure you have a clear picture of what the test will look like before you begin your preparation process.
If you’re a domestic student, then no, you can’t yet take the SAT online as of the time of writing. Starting in 2024, however, the digital SAT will be introduced for domestic students as well; at that point, your only option for SAT testing will be to take the test online.
What is the best way to prepare for the SAT?
With Inspirica Pros, of course.
No but seriously, while we obviously hope that you come work with us and let one of our tutors help you prepare for the SAT, there are many ways to prep. You can choose to work with a tutor, or you can opt to prepare by yourself using the many resources that are available. Whichever path you select, make sure it follows these key tenets:
- Look for a mix of content and strategy. There are many great (and sometimes free) options that will help you review the grammar and math concepts with which you may be struggling; Khan Academy is one example. Remember, however, that getting a good SAT score is about more than knowing the material—it’s about knowing the test, its patterns, and how best to attack them.
- There’s no substitute for timed practice. Make sure that your prep plan incorporates plenty of timed practice sections and full practice tests, particularly as you get closer to the date of the test.
- Review your mistakes. Practice alone isn’t enough. Make sure that you’re building in time to look back over your timed sections and review the questions you miss. In Verbal, ask yourself why your answer was wrong and what makes the correct answer better; in Math, try to locate the error in your work, then see if you can rework the problem correctly without time pressure.