Pack Your Bags for SAT* Exam Day

Your head is packed with facts, figures, formulas — all the stuff you're supposed to pull out of memory to survive the SAT. Taking your bulging brain with you on test day is, well, a no-brainer. You're going to the test site to show what you know. To be fully prepared for this "exciting" experience, you'll need to load up with a few other items. Here are some must-haves for the test-taking trip:

  • Your Admission Ticket: You wouldn't imagine trying to get into a concert without your ticket, right? Expect the same deal at the test center on the day of your exam. Your ticket will arrive in the mail a week or two before the test. If you haven't received your ticket one week before the test or if you happen to lose your ticket, call the College Board at 609-771-7600. You also can make changes to and print your ticket online (even if you registered by mail) after you set up a fast, free, and easy account at College Board.

  • A photo ID: You must have in hand a current, recognizable picture of yourself. Snapshots don't count; neither do library cards, social security cards, birth certificates, or credit cards. These folks want to see a driver's license, passport, or school ID.

  • Map or clear directions: Getting lost on the way to the test is not an option. To make sure you don't add more stress to an already crazy day, take a "test" drive a few days before the big day. Pay attention to how much time it takes to get you where you need to go. Also check out the parking situation at the test center. On the morning of the exam, add a few minutes as a safety net for odd weather or traffic conditions.

  • Pencils: Take several freshly sharpened Number 2 pencils with healthy erasers. You can even pack a small pencil sharpener and a pudgy pink eraser, if you want.

  • Watch: The test center clock may not be within your view (or, it could be off a few minutes or hours). A simple timepiece will tell you all you need to know. Leave watches with beepers or alarms at home, along with your cell phone. Audible distractions usually become the property of the proctor for the course of the exam.

  • Calculator: You can use almost any four-function, graphing, or scientific calculator on the SAT I. According to the College Board, students who use calculators on the exam perform slightly better than those who do not. That said, the College Board does say No! to some types of calculators. You can find that list — plus other tips — at SAT I Calculator Policy.

  • Clothes: Put comfort before fashion on test day. Dress for all kinds of classroom weather by layering on a sweater or sweatshirt over a shirt that stays away from a tight fit. The test center is bound to feel like either a deep freezer or a sauna, so you need to stay adaptable. Chilling out (or overheating) won't do much for your concentration. And the people in charge probably won't be building maintenance professionals willing to adjust thermostats.

Now that your pockets, purse, or backpack is stuffed with supplies, pull out any of the following things. You won't be welcomed into the test room if you happen to have

  • Books, notes, index cards: Study time's over. Rather than cloud your thinking with last-minute cramming, take a deep breath and clear that congested brain.

  • Scratch paper: Although you can't bring in blank sheets of paper, you can trust that the exam booklet has lots of extra space that you can figure, jot, diagram, scrawl, or doodle on.

  • Testing aids: Pencils only allowed . . . no highlighters, compasses, rulers, protractors, personal stereos or headphones. Leave the abacus in your car, too. (If you're not sure if you even own one, look it up in the dictionary. You just might sneak another vocabulary word into your memory banks!)

*SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this product.