Even if you’re used to going to school in a more relaxed atmosphere, you should know that it’s important to follow the SAT rules. The rules are put in place to help keep this significant test fair for everyone who takes it. Following the SAT’s rules and policies will also help your test escape its most dreaded fate: having your score canceled.
The best way to prevent the College Board from canceling your score is to know the SAT’s rules, policies and requirements before you sit down to take the test. Even though your proctor is required to read many of these mandates aloud to the room, some of them are easier to break than others. Knowing other rules, policies and requirements will help you register and prepare for the test with more ease.
It's important to understand how to register for the SAT, what to bring on test day – like the all-important SAT admission ticket – and what to leave at home. You should also become familiar with SAT calculator programs and common issues that might cause your test to be invalidated.
Who Can Take the SAT?
Believe it or not, there is no minimum age requirement for taking the SAT. Usually, most students choose to take the SAT in their junior or senior year of high school, but that doesn’t stop precocious students from sitting for the exam in their earlier teen years.
It is also possible to take the SAT if you’re older too. All you need to sign up for the test is proper documentation, including a government-issued photo identification card.
However, if you are 12 years old or younger, just know that registration will work a little differently for you. Because of internet privacy laws, test takers who are 12 years old or younger cannot sign up for the test over the internet. Instead, these young test takers have to sign up for the test by mail. They will also have to receive their scores by mail for the same reason.
How Do I Register for the SAT?
If you’re 13 years old or older, you can register for the SAT online through collegeboard.org. Create a free College Board account using your complete legal name as it appears on your government-issued photo identification card. Next, answer a few questions about yourself. This may look like it will take a little time, but it’s worth it because these questions can help you earn scholarships later if you score well on the test.
After you’ve entered all the required information, sign up for the test by following the instructions on your screen. Next, upload a photo of yourself. Make sure it’s clear, looks like you and matches your photo ID. If you cannot be identified by your photo, you might not be able to take the test when you show up on your testing day.
When you’re satisfied with your test selection and your uploaded photo, check out and pay. You should also print your SAT admission ticket at that time. Remember that if you are using a fee waiver, have approved accommodations or if you’re homeschooled, have that information ready at checkout.
What Is an SAT Admission Ticket?
Your SAT admission ticket, just like a ticket to a concert, is the piece of paper that gets you in the door to take the SAT. Unlike a concert ticket, your SAT admission ticket includes information about your identity that will help test administrators make sure you are who you say you are. This helps prevent students from cheating on the test by having others complete the test for them.
Since digital copies of the SAT admission ticket are not accepted, you’ll have to make plans to print out the ticket at home. Before you do, double check to make sure that all of your personal information is correct and your picture on the ticket matches your appearance and your government-issued photo identification.
If you need to change anything on the admission ticket, do that online before your test date. After you make changes at home, be sure to print out a new copy of your admission ticket, as tickets with incorrect information will not be accepted. Test administrators will not allow you to make changes onsite except to add SAT subject tests or to add or subtract the essay portion of the test.
What Do I Do With My Cell Phone?
Some test experts say to leave your phone at home since having your phone make noise or being caught with your cell phone out, even during breaks, can be grounds for immediate dismissal from the test. However, if you drove to your testing site or even if you rode public transportation, you know that traveling with your phone is safer than going without it. So, what do you do if you can’t leave your phone at home?
One option is to leave your phone in the car in the glove box or someplace out of sight. While this option is better than taking your phone inside with you, you still run the risk of someone breaking into your car to steal it, especially if they know people are at the test site that day to take the SAT. Luckily, you have another option.
Test administrators are required to collect electronic devices from test takers. Turn your cell phone off before you hand it in. The test administrator will keep it secure in a bin or locked box for the duration of your test, so you don’t have to worry.
What Kind of Calculator Can I Use on the SAT?
The College Board is very strict about the types of calculators that can be used on the SAT. So, they keep a long list of specific calculators that can be used on the test. When you sign up for the SAT, check to make sure the calculator you have is on the list of accepted devices.
For the most part, all graphing calculators and scientific calculators are allowed. The College Board also allows four-function calculators, but those are not recommended. Only bring battery-operated calculators because ones that need to be plugged in will not be permitted.
Before test day, make sure your calculator is in good working order, but pack an extra set of batteries just in case it stops working during the test. Take practice tests using your calculator so you can get used to its functions before your test day. Bringing your own calculator is also necessary because sharing calculators during the SAT is not allowed.
Which SAT Calculator Programs Are Allowed?
An SAT calculator program is a set of rules that you can program into your calculator to help you solve certain problems. That sounds like an unfair advantage, doesn’t it? Well, believe it or not, SAT calculator programs are totally legal.
Does this sound too good to be true? It should because as it turns out, SAT calculator programs really don’t help that much. Most of them will help you solve formulas that you should already know. The best thing they can do is help save you a little time.
You can download many programs from the calculator manufacturers’ websites themselves. Other programs can be found by searching the internet, but for the most part, your calculator already has all of the functions you may need. Spending time learning how to use those functions will better prepare you for the test than will downloading additional programs.
What to Expect on Test Day
On your test day, make sure you arrive at your test site early. You will only have a 15-minute window to arrive after the doors open at 7:45 a.m. and before they close at 8:00 a.m. If you’re late, you will have to reschedule your test.
Once you’re in your test room, wait for your proctor to show you to your assigned seat. Don’t open your test booklet until the proctor says to do so. You can’t work ahead or look back, so follow the instructions.
The proctor will read instructions aloud from the test manual, and you can ask questions about test protocol before the test begins. During the test, the proctor will inform you of how much time you have remaining in each section and when you can take breaks. During your breaks, you can eat your snack and use the restroom, but you can’t leave the building or use your cell phone, or your scores will be canceled.
After the SAT Is Over
After you’re finished with your test, wait for the proctor to dismiss you. You can’t just leave on your own. Do not power up your cell phone or take out homework to do during any extra time, as this may be misconstrued as cheating, and your scores could be canceled.
After test time is over, you will hand in your testing materials. No test materials can leave the premises. Be extra careful to give everything back or else you might be accused of cheating.
Once you have turned in your test and retrieved your cell phone, then you can leave the test site with everyone else. Just be sure not to discuss the test with your peers. That’s against SAT rules.
Other Mistakes That Could Cancel Your Scores
You’ll be taking the SAT in a secure testing environment to ensure that everyone gets the same chance at the material. Doing anything to compromise that test environment, like leaving the building or sharing answers, will force test administrators to cancel your scores.
To stop something like that from happening, follow the test administrator’s instructions. He will inform you of the correct protocol for your actions during the test and on breaks. Don’t worry; you won’t have to memorize a rule book. Just remember that giving or receiving help during the test is not permitted.
You will not be allowed to leave the building during the test, for example. You also can’t talk about the test during breaks. Obvious breaches of protocol, like taking pictures of the test or smuggling out test booklets, may include more stringent consequences.
What If I Miss My Test Day?
If you miss your test day, you will have to reschedule your test. To do this, go to collegeboard.org and click “Change Registration Information.” Then choose a new date for your test.
Rescheduling costs money but not as much as signing up for a new test altogether. To avoid excess fees, make sure you don’t cancel your registration. Rescheduling is moving the same test for which you already paid to a different date, not registering for a completely new test.
Before your next test day, fix the issues that caused you to miss your test in the first place. You don't want to keep repeating the same mistakes.