SAT Test Day Tips
By Clara N.
You have studied, practiced, had sleepless nights, not had a social life at all during this intense study period and now you are all set to take the test. Congrats on making it this far!
Now, you can not have dedicated that much time for preparation, only to let your nerves get the best of you on the exam day or the night before the exam.
Here are some tips that will help you steady your nerves and ensure that you are well prepared on test day. One key to overcoming Test Day anxiety is to have a plan!!!
Before we look at the test day tips, let’s go over what you should expect on Test Day.
Arrival and check in
- When you arrive at the test center, you will find a check-in area where you will present your photo ID and your admission ticket.
- All test centers open at 7:45 a.m. and doors close at 8:00 a.m., unless otherwise noted on your admission ticket.
- Make sure you show up with everything you need.
- Testing starts between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.
- Your seat is assigned and not chosen by you. Wait to be seated.
- When you enter the testing room, you will be given a few minutes to settle in.
- Your test room supervisor will introduce himself/herself and offer some general testing guidelines and rules.
- You will clear everything on your desk except for your calculator and pencils.
- You will then receive a test book and an answer sheet and you will be asked to fill in some basic information.
Taking the test
- The test will be administered section by section.
- The test coordinator will tell you when to start and stop working on a section.
- You must work within each section of the test only for the time allotted.
- You may not go back to a section once that section has ended.
- You may not go ahead to a new section if you finish a section early.
- Do not skip sections. Doing so may result in score cancellations, delays or both.
- If you finish a section before time is up, you should sit quietly and review your work while you wait until the section time is over.
- You will be given two short breaks.
- The first one, immediately following the 65-minute Reading Test, will be ten minutes
- The next one will be five minutes long and it will be given after you have completed the Writing and Language Test and the first section of the Math test.
- If you are taking the Essay, you will be given a third break before that section. This break may only be two minutes
- You can use these breaks to eat or drink.
- Keep your ID and admission ticket with you at all times, they will be checked every time you enter the testing room.
- Test books, answer sheets and calculators must remain on your desk during breaks.
- You can’t use this time to power up devices, like cell phones – if you do, your scores will be cancelled.
After the test
- Once you have finished your test, your test room supervisor will collect your test book and answer sheet.
- If you take the SAT with Essay, you’ll likely be done testing around 1:00 p.m., if you’re not taking the Essay, expect to be done around 12:00 p.m.
- When your test supervisor dismisses the group, you’re free to go.
- Plan for a fun activity after the test to celebrate completing your SAT!!! Woohhoooo!!!!
- Your scores will be available 21 days after the test day.
- You will receive an email when your scores are available and ready to view.
- You will be able to access your scores online (both for multiple-choice and essay) online score report.
- Make sure on SAT registration, you select your choice of 4 schools that you want to send your scores to which is a service provided free of charge by college board. You have until 9 days after the test date to do this. After 10 days, you will have to pay for your score report.
What you MUST bring on test day
Pack these items the night before so that you don’t forget anything on Test Day.
- Admission Ticket – You MUST have your Admission Ticket on Test Day. Sign into My SAT and click “Print Admission Ticket”.
- Photo Identification – You MUST present an acceptable photo identification (ID) for admission to the test center. You are responsible for understanding and following The SAT Test-Taker Identification Requirements and Policies. A valid passport, ID or Driver’s License is acceptable. An expired is NOT.
The photo can be 2 x 2 or 2.5 x 3 inches. It must be recent showing your head and shoulders. It should not have an outdated look (e.g. facial hair that you no longer have, a new and different hair length or color). Head gear for religious purposes, prescription glasses, hearing devices or similar articles are acceptable and must match the same look on your test day. Sunglasses or glare on eyeglasses is not acceptable in your photo. – Please be aware that you may be denied entrance to the test center or your scores may be withheld or canceled if you can’t present an acceptable ID.
- 2 pencils and a soft eraser – You will take the test on paper and will be required to fill out an answer sheet using a pencil to cross out the wrong choices and to work math problems. You will use it to write the essay. You can bring as many as you like, but bring at least two. Mechanical pencils are not allowed.
- An acceptable calculator – You will be permitted to use a calculator for at least one math portion of the test. Permitted calculators include graphing calculators, scientific calculators, or four-function calculators (not recommended). Calculators that are NOT permitted include laptops or computers, tablets or cell phones, anything that can access the Internet or has wireless, bluetooth or cellular communications, a calculator with a QWERTY board or any calculator that requires an electric outlet, makes noise or can record/play. Read the calculator policy to understand in more detail which calculators are and are not allowed.
What you MAY bring on test day
While not required, these items may help you have a positive test experience.
- Water and some light snacks (granola, yoghurt, mixed nuts, fresh fruit, sandwich)
- Extra batteries for your calculator
- A watch (without an audible alarm)
- A bag or backpack to keep your personalized items
- Dress in layers – to make sure you are comfortable
What you MUST NOT bring to the testing room on test day
These items are prohibited from the testing rooms.
- Cell phones or smartphones
- iPods / other MP3/audio players
- iPads / other tablets
- Laptops, notebooks, or other personal computers
- Pagers or other texting devices
- Separate timers of any type
- Cameras or other photographic equipment
- Any device, including digital or smart watches, capable of recording or transmitting audio, photographic or video content, or capable of viewing or playing back such content.
- See the Cell Phones and Electronic Devices policy for more information on prohibited devices.
Things to keep in mind
- Test administration staff reserves the right to collect and hold cell phones and other prohibited electronic devices during the test administration, including during break periods.
- If your device makes noise, or if you are seen using it, or if you attempt to access it at any time, including breaks, you will be dismissed immediately, your scores can be canceled, and the device may be confiscated.
- The College Board is not responsible for loss or damage to personal items, including electronic devices, while you are in the test center.
Before test day – The night before test day
- Get a good night’s sleep – Sleep for at least 7-8 hours the night before the test and try to wake up an hour earlier than you have to.
- Have a healthy dinner – Drink lots of water and load up on complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes), protein and vegetables.
- Organize your bag for Test Day – The night before is the time to put your ID, admission ticket, pencils, calculator, batteries and other gear in a bag by the door.
- Make a plan to get to the testing site – Before you go to sleep, make sure know exactly how you’ll get to the testing center and on time.
On test day
- Wake up early and have a healthy breakfast. Here are a few good choices: eggs, toast, cereal, bagels, fruit, juice, cheese, milk, etc.
- If you drink coffee or tea, then stick to your routine. If you don’t drink a caffeinated beverage every day, though, Test Day isn’t the time to start. You need calm, slow-burning, consistent energy today.
- Get to the test site early.
- When you get to the test site, try to steer clear of nervous people. You don’t need their anxious energy rubbing off on you!
- Here are some things you can do that might make you more confident and comfortable on Test Day. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and all of these don’t work for everyone, so it’s always better to try them out before you actually use them on Test Day.
During the test
You definitely want to put your A game on during the test.
- Don’t freak out – Keep going even if some of the questions scare you!
- Don’t leave anything blank – There is no penalty for guessing, so if you don’t know an answer, go ahead and guess – you might just get lucky!
- Use process of elimination – Crossing out choices as you go along really helps when you get that feeling that you might need to guess. Every time you confidently eliminate an option, your chance of selecting the correct answer out of the remaining options is higher. Even if you have no idea how to answer a question, try to eliminate any obviously wrong choices – and then guess from the remaining ones.
- Cover up the choices – Try to come up with an answer on your own before you even look at the choices. This helps make sure that you don’t get distracted by answer choices that look good before you have a chance to figure it out for yourself.
- Skip it – If you come across a difficult question, don’t spend too much time on it. You can circle the questions you skip and come back to them at the end if you have extra time. If you let yourself get bogged down, you might not make it to the easier questions that could earn you more points. Don’t spend more than 1.5 minutes on any question on your first pass through.
- Trust yourself – Do not second-guess yourself. It’s very easy to switch from the right answer to a wrong one just because of doubting yourself.
- Bubble in batches – This can help avoid accidentally bubbling in the wrong answers. You can complete five questions (circling your answer choices on the test itself), and then you bubble the answers on the answer sheet. This can help save time. But don’t wait until the end of the test to bubble in everything, or you might panic – or even run out of time before you have a chance to enter all your answers!
- Always take the breaks – Even if you don’t feel like it, take advantage of breaks. They might make you feel less stressed and you’ll probably feel more refreshed and prepared to take on the rest of the test.
- Check your answers – I know you might be completely worn out and the last thing you want is to re-read those questions again. But if you have a few minutes at the end of a section, spend some time to go over the questions again. Take this time to make sure you filled out the answer sheet correctly and didn’t accidentally skip a question and bubble in the wrong answers.
For the Math test:
- Underline key parts of the problem to make sure you’re understanding the question being asked.
- Make sure you are answering the question being asked. Always double check to make sure you’re answering the right question!
- Understand order of difficulty. Sections in the Math Test increase in difficulty as you go along: the questions start out easier, then slowly get harder, with the hardest questions at the end of the section. Also, the Math sections always have a few grid-ins (student-produced response questions) after the multiple choice questions, and the first few grid-ins are always easier than the last few multiple choice ones, so don’t waste time on the hardest multiple choice before picking up some easier points in the grid-ins.
- Every question on the SAT is worth the same. Focus on getting the easy and medium questions correct first before taking a crack at harder questions.
- If you don’t know how to do a question, skip it. Sometimes, things don’t “click,” and that’s alright. Just keep going and go back to the question later. Most of the time you’ll realize that it was actually super easy, and your brain just needed to reset!
- Above all, remember that multiple choice is a gift; the right is right there in front of you 🙂
For the Reading test:
- Read the questions quickly before reading the passage. Try to circle and underline names and weird words in the questions before reading the passage.
- Don’t over-annotate. Instead, try to circle or underline the most important parts of each paragraph, and maybe jot a + or a – or a check. Sometimes a word or two, maybe a ! or a ?, but that’s it.
- Read actively. A good way of doing this would be to ask yourself what the point of each paragraph is after you read it, and then challenge yourself to answer that question before you start reading the next paragraph. That way, you check your understanding and keep yourself engaged.
For the Writing & Language test:
- Simplify complicated sentences. Some sentences are so long and confusing! Try to identify the subject and the verb of more complicated sentences and cross out extra stuff like prepositional clauses beginning with of, for, about, with, etc…
Now you’re ready!!! So try your best not to stress about the test. We hope you can go into the test feeling confident and well-prepared!
If you want to get a head start on studying for your next SAT test date, check out our study plans. You should also know your target score so you can plan accordingly.
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