Test Prep

Packing SAT Test Day Essentials

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So the time has come. Your weeks of waiting are over and your prep is complete — your SAT is tomorrow. What now? While I don’t recommend cramming any new material the night before a big test, there is one thing I often suggest to students so they’re ready to go on test day: Packing a kit of SAT essentials.

Things to Get You Through the Door


The first thing you should put in your SAT prep bag is your test admission ticket. This can be printed as soon as you register on the College Board website. This ticket verifies your registration date, location and specific test (SAT, SAT with Essay or one or more SAT Subject Tests). It’s important to have this printed and ready to go with you on test day as electronic copies will not be accepted.

The second thing you’ll need is a valid ID. This is just as important as your admission ticket, because you won’t get through the door of your testing center unless you have proof that you are who you say you are. This can take the form of a driver’s license, a learner’s permit, a passport or even a school ID (so long as it has a recent and recognizable photo of you). You probably carry something around with you every day already, but there is no harm in double-checking.

Something to Write With

Don’t assume that the testing site will provide you with a pencil. Sure, you might get lucky and find one in a classroom or be able to borrow one from another test-taker, but I don’t recommend leaving your ability to fill in your answer sheet at the hands of fate. Plus, it’s always useful to have a backup or five just in case your pencil breaks— you don’t want to waste time during the test sharpening. (Also, remember to make sure that any pencil you bring with you on test day is a number two pencil. And no mechanical pencils – old-fashioned wooden pencils only!)

An Approved And Functional Calculator

No one is going to stop you from tackling the SAT if you don’t bring a calculator. However, there is a Math section on the SAT that allows it, so having one with you is more than recommended. Keep in mind that there are some calculators with advanced capabilities that are not allowed, so check out the SAT calculator policy to make sure the one you plan to bring is acceptable. (Bonus tip: Put in fresh batteries or charge it the night before and test it out to make sure you’re good to go.)

A Way to Keep Time

Some of the best SAT prep techniques involve pacing strategies that rely heavily on access to a timepiece. Your testing location will typically have a clock of its own, but I still recommend wearing a valid (non-smart, non-alarm) watch so you can keep track of time no matter what. Some rooms may not have a clock; some clocks will be broken or located inconveniently to your seat. Even if the prep work you’ve done for the SAT so far has ignored the pacing and timing of the test, you don’t want to risk being told to put your pencil down while you’ve still got unfilled bubbles.

Means to Keep You Comfortable

Whether you’re taking the test in the cooler months or in the grueling summer heat, the environment of your testing room will be largely unfamiliar until you sit down the morning of the test. I recommend you bring layers (like an extra jacket or a sweater) that you can either add or remove depending on how you feel. The testing room could be cold or hot, and you don’t want to be shivering (or sweating) during your test because you prepared only for the weather outside.

You should always eat something before heading out on test day, but I also recommend bringing some type of healthy snack along with you. You’re given two breaks throughout the SAT (or if you’re taking SAT Subject Tests, you will likely have time between each), so that’ll give you opportunities to keep your energy up by eating something small. Along those lines, you might also want to consider bringing a small bottle of water or juice with you, just in case there isn’t an accessible drinking fountain.

What NOT to Bring

There’s a list of items you should leave at home on College Board’s website. You can bring your phone, but it must be off, and don’t be surprised if the proctors collect it before the test. Don’t bring any other electronics, and keep your pens and highlighters at home. Keep it simple!

These might seem like small steps, but I always recommend taking every precaution you can when prepping for the SAT, whether studying up on material and best practices or figuring out logistics and personal comfort. I don’t need to tell you there’s a lot riding on these scores, so do whatever you can to have smooth sailing on test day!

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