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How much does it cost to take the SAT? How much does it cost to take the ACT?

January 03, 2019

If you are preparing to take the SAT or ACT, then you may be wondering how much these exams cost.  Here we will cover testing fees, cost-saving strategies, and how many times students typically take each exam.


Testing Fees

The SAT and ACT each carry slightly different fees, described as follows.  SAT Subject Tests are subject to additional fees.


SAT Testing Fees

SAT testing fees are set annually by the College Board.  The SAT base price, which includes the two main test sections of Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing, is $47.50 for exams taken during the 2018-2019 academic year.  The testing fee for exams that include the optional essay component is $64.50.  Applicants can have score reports sent to up to four schools at no charge, provided that the schools are specified by the applicant during test registration or within nine days following the exam date.  The College Board assesses additional fees for the following:

  • Score reports for more than four schools: $12 each;  
  • Rush mailing of a score report: $31 (“rush” score reports are mailed within 2-4 business days of request);
  • Exam registration by phone: $15;
  • Change of testing center or test date: $29;
  • Late registration: $29 (charged to applicants who register after the standard registration deadline but - crucially - before the late registration deadline);
  • Admission of waitlisted applicants on testing day: $51 per applicant;
  • Test scores provided by phone: $15; and
  • Completion of the exam outside the United States: surplus fees vary regionally but range from $41 to $53.

The College Board charges the following additional fees to applicants who wish to complete one or more SAT Subject Tests:

  • Registration fee: $26 (for a single test date, on which an applicant may complete up to three subject tests per the fee structure below)
    • Subject tests that include tests of language with listening: $26 per test
    • Subject tests that do not include tests of language with listening: $22 per test

ACT Testing Fees

Fees for the ACT are determined by the nonprofit organization of the same name (ACT Inc.).  The ACT without the writing component costs $50.50 and $67 with the writing component.  The $16.50 fee for the writing component is refundable, by written request, if the test-taker is absent on testing day or chooses before testing begins to take the exam without the writing component.  Applicants can have score reports sent to up to four schools at no charge, provided that the schools are specified by the applicant at the time of test registration. ACT Inc. assesses additional fees for the following:

  • Score reports for more than four schools: $13 each;  
  • Rush mailing of a score report: $16.50 (“rush” score reports are mailed within 2 business days of request);
  • Late registration: $30 (just like with the SAT, this fee is charged to applicants who register after the standard registration deadline but before the late registration deadline);
  • Standby testing: $53 (billed to waitlisted applicants who register after the late registration deadline; fee is refunded if applicant is not admitted on testing day);
  • Change of testing date or testing center: $30;
  • Re-registration by phone (for applicants who have registered previously or received a score report from a prior exam): $15;
  • Release of test information (to receive the questions and answers from a completed test): $20; and
  • Completion of the exam outside the United States or Canada: $51.

How to save money on the SAT and ACT


The exam fees for the SAT and ACT can be substantial, but luckily there are several strategies that you can employ to minimize your costs:

  • Plan ahead: The vast majority of extra fees that you may incur can be avoided by careful planning and organization.  This starts with knowing which exams are required by your target schools. In addition, you can save money by adhering to the exams’ registration deadlines and arriving well prepared to the testing center on the date of your exam.  The earlier in the year that you complete your exams, the less likely that you will be rushing to provide test results to your target schools before the schools’ application deadlines.
  • Study hard: In addition to planning ahead to take your exams, you can reduce your costs by studying diligently for each test.  Study in groups, study alone, take practice tests, and do whatever else is necessary to fully prepare yourself. Better preparation will result in more favorable exam results, and may eliminate the need to retake either test.
  • Apply for a fee waiver: Fee waivers are granted to students from low-income families; eligible students may obtain fee waivers by working with their high school counselors directly.  The SAT and ACT each approach fee waivers slightly differently:
    • The SAT fee waiver covers two standard exams, six subject tests, two Question-and-Answer Service or Student Answer Service reports, unlimited score reports, waived application fees at participating colleges, waived CSS Profile application fees, and other benefits such as reduced fees for score verification reports and waived fees for late registration.  Learn more about the eligibility requirements for SAT fee waivers.   
    • ACT fee waivers must be obtained separately for each exam; qualifying students are eligible to receive only two waivers each.  The ACT fee waiver covers the exam registration fee, score reports for up to six colleges and the student’s high school, and complimentary access to the ACT Kaplan Online Prep Live learning portal.  Recipients of ACT fee waivers may also request waived or deferred fees for college admissions applications.

Although not every applicant qualifies for fee waivers, advance planning and diligent preparation can provide financial payoffs to every student.  Many scholarships are available to candidates who score highly on the SAT or ACT - learn more about scholarships available by SAT score and by ACT score.


How Many Times Should I Take the SAT or ACT?

There is no magical number for how many times you should take the SAT or ACT.  Less than a third of students take both exams, although roughly half of applicants take either the SAT or ACT more than once.  Students who choose to retake an exam typically do so in attempt to exceed the minimum or average test scores for a target school, to qualify for scholarships with minimum test score requirements, or to comply with athletic scholarship criteria.  Of course, the more that you study, the fewer times you will need to take the test! Best of luck.