Test Prep

What to Bring to the ACT/SAT -- And What Not to Bring

iStock

When preparing for the SAT or ACT, you've probably planned out your study program and your testing strategy -- but it can really put you at an advantage to also plan ahead for a stress-free morning when test day rolls around.

The night before the test, pick out some comfortable clothes (perhaps those lucky socks?) and shoes. Keep in mind that the testing room temperature could be freezing cold or really warm, so think in layers when you're getting dressed.


Have your breakfast planned out. Make sure you have time for a nutritious and not too heavy breakfast before the test — being too hungry or too full can distract you during the test.

Packing your bag the night before the test is also smart so you don't have to worry about searching frantically for your ID or ticket in the morning when you're half awake. Let's see what needs to go into your bag based on the official checklists from the SAT and ACT:

Printed Admission Ticket

Showing the ticket on your phone is NOT acceptable and you won't be allowed inside without the printed, paper ticket. Don't wait until the morning of the test to find somewhere to print it out. Log into your SAT account or ACT account at least a day or two in advance, print out your ticket and keep it in a safe place until you pack your bag the night before the test.

Your Official, Valid Photo ID

The easiest thing to do is bring in your current, official school ID. You can also bring your unexpired driver's license or your unexpired passport. Regardless, the name on your photo ID must match the name on your ticket, or they won't let you in. If you do not have a valid photo ID, there is an ID form allowed by both the SAT and the ACT that you can fill in and have signed by a school official. If you still aren't sure what to bring, look through the official online checklist for your test to confirm what forms of ID are NOT acceptable.

An Approved Calculator for the Math Portion of the Test

The College Board has a detailed list here of acceptable calculator brands and models, so you can check to see if yours makes the cut. Like the College Board, the ACT is okay with most graphing and scientific calculators, but has a list of calculators that are prohibited.

For the SAT, you will have to put your calculator away during all non-Math sections of the test and during the no-calculator portion of the Math section. For the ACT, you can only use your calculator during the Math section. If you don't comply with these rules, your scores will be canceled, and you definitely don't want that to happen!

Just remember that you don't need to use your calculator for every math question — some are easier and faster to solve by working them out on paper. In fact, both tests are designed so that you don't actually need to use a calculator for any of the math questions.

Also, it's going to save you a lot of frustration if you bring a calculator that is familiar to you, preferably the one that you've been using to study for the test. If for some reason you need to buy a new calculator close to the test date, be sure to try it out and use it to go through some math sections on a practice test or two. The last thing you want to be doing during the test is wasting precious time on understanding how your new gadget works.

At Least Two No. 2 Pencils And An Extra Eraser

This one is pretty straightforward. Make sure your pencils are sharpened and have erasers. Don't bring mechanical pencils — you won't be allowed to use them.

Extra Things You Can Bring

-- A watch to keep track of how much time you have left for each section of the test. You could set an alarm for the midpoint of a section or as a five-minute-warning, but be sure to put the alarm on silent or it will be taken from you.

-- Healthy snacks and water that you can have ONLY during your break. You could also bring your breakfast with you if you didn't have time to eat at home. Give yourself time before you have to enter the testing room, so you don't have to scarf the whole thing down. It won't be any fun dealing with indigestion while trying to concentrate on the test!

-- If you need to bring an Epi-Pen, you can take one in a clear plastic bag and keep it under your desk while you're taking the test. For students who have registered to take the test with accommodations, don't forget to bring your SSD Eligibility Letter.

-- You can take extra batteries for your calculator or even a backup calculator, but you can't typically keep them with you at your desk during the test. In case you need to get them, you'll have to ask for permission from the proctor.

What You CANNOT Bring to the test

As you might have guessed, this list of no-go items is going to be a lot longer than the list of approved items. Just stick to taking things on the first list ONLY, and then you won't have to worry about any of the things on this list below:

-- Your cellphone

-- Unapproved calculators (see above list for calculators that are allowed)

-- Pretty much any electronic device that isn't an approved calculator or basic watch: Laptop or notebook or any other personal computing device, iPod or any other mp3 player, camera, iPad or other tablet, smart watch, any texting device, audio player or recorder, Google Glass, etc. You get the idea.

-- Highlighters, colored pens or pencils

-- Dictionaries or books

-- Ruler, compass, protractor

-- Papers or pamphlets

-- Tobacco in any form

If you must bring your cellphone, you'll have to turn it off and keep it under your desk during the test and also during the break. At some testing centers, your cellphone may be collected and held for you until the test is over. Same goes for any of the other prohibited devices — if you bring one of those items with you, it will most likely be taken from you and given back once the test is over.

You're probably going to take the test bright and early on a Saturday morning, so just this once, try to go to bed at a normal hour on Friday night so you're fully alert for the test.