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SAT Logistics, Tips & Tricks

What to bring to the SAT?

The night before the exam.

Or, as we like to call it here at Shmoop World HQ: GAME TIME.

It's finally time to show that test who's boss. You've worked hard in all of your classes. You've put in the time to prep smartly by using this guide (definitely). You've even done a little bit of last-minute practice.

You're good to go.

Now all that's left is to do the right things on game day to make sure that you maximize your potential and get the score you deserve.

Game Day Eve

As far as we're concerned, game day really starts the night before the test. At this point, the one single thing you can do to maximize your score is to make sure you walk into that exam room feeling fresh and well-rested.

So what should you do the night before the test to make sure you're feeling good when morning rolls around?

Don't study.

Seriously. By now, you know what you know. Feverish last-minute cramming is more likely to stress you out or make you tired than it is to help you learn that one critical piece of information you'll need to answer a question tomorrow morning.

So log out of Shmoop, shut down your laptop, and keep your textbook in your bag.

Go do something you enjoy doing. See a movie. Cook a dinner with friends. Play some basketball. Take your dog out for a jog around the neighborhood. Whatever it is that makes you smile and relax, that's what you should be doing.

It's probably not a good idea to go out to some kind of raging late-night party, of course, but definitely make a point to do something fun.

And then go to sleep. A full night's rest will be like money in the bank come morning.

Game Day

First thing's first. Make sure to set an alarm clock. Or two. Or three. Whatever time your test is offered, you don't want to oversleep and end up rushing around in a panic.

Once you're awake, try to stick to your normal morning routine. If you usually eat a big breakfast, eat a big breakfast; you don't want to feel like you're starving halfway through the test. If you usually don't eat a big breakfast, don't eat a big breakfast; you don't want to find yourself going into food coma just as you hit the essay section.

Basically, you've been training your body and mind to follow a certain morning routine for years, and you'll only throw yourself off if you do something radically different on game day.

(Of course, if your normal morning routine involves sleeping through first period and then walking around like a zombie until lunchtime … well, you might want to switch things up a bit.)

Next up: know where you're going. Your own high school might be hosting the test, but it's likely that you'll have to show up somewhere else to take the test. If you're going somewhere new, make sure you know where you need to be and how to get there. This isn't a great time to get lost!

Try to show up a little bit early. Give yourself time to get settled, use the bathroom, get a drink of water, etc.

And finally, in the last minutes before the test starts, get yourself in the zone. If you're the kind of person who performs best when cool and collected, take a moment to meditate or clear your head. If you're the kind of person who performs best when a little bit more amped up, maybe throw your favorite hype song on your iPod. (Presuming you're not a boxer, will there ever really be another moment when "Eye of the Tiger" would be more appropriate as your theme song than right now?)

Whatever your style may be, take a minute to get yourself in the right frame of mind. Then take a deep breath, walk into the exam, and knock it out the box.

What to Bring

The most important thing to bring to the exam is your mind.

But there's some other stuff that will come in handy, too:

  • Watch: Time management on this test is key, and you never know if you might get stuck in an exam room with a broken clock. So wear a watch. But make sure it's a quiet watch … if you start beeping during the test, bad things might happen.
  • Your admission ticket: When you register online for the test, this ticket is automatically created for you. Although you can print it out at any time by signing into the College Board website, we recommend printing it out BEFORE the night before the test. As you've probably learned, that's when printers always decide to flake out.
  • Calculator: You should bring a calculator to the test for use on the math section, even if you don't think you'll need it. In fact, none of the math questions require a calculator. The people at the College Board and we here at Shmoop recommend you bring one anyway, since it can make you feel more secure about some of your answers, but don't waste time trying to use it on every question. You're not expected to do so, and you shouldn't need to. Finally, make sure you bring a calculator that you're actually allowed to use - four-function, scientific, and graphing calculators are all okay. Check out the official rules here. Oh, and one more thing: no sharing calculators.
  • Pencils: Two of them, sharpened, #2 lead, with good erasers. Emphasis on the good erasers. You want to be able to change an answer if you realize you've made a mistake.
  • Photo ID: As tempting as it may be to hire the genius kid from math class to take your SAT for you, the College Board is on to that scheme and makes it a point to check that the you taking the exam is actually, well, you. If you leave your ID at home, you're not getting in to that exam.
  • Drink and Snack: You'll get a short break during the test, so bring a little bit of brain food.

What NOT to Bring

The College Board is all about policing contraband. It's not hard to figure out why; a few idiots have been trying to cheat on their tests for decades. And the College Board has always been one step ahead of them, blocking people from bringing anything that might be used as a cheat sheet into the exam room.

As our digital gadgetry has gotten more and more fancypants, the College Board has gotten more and more stingy about what can come into the exam room. As a general rule of thumb, if it could be used to carry information, it can't come in the room.

So don't bring any of this stuff:

  • Cell Phones: Yes, your iPhone really could come in handy on a test. No, you can't bring it inside. Yes, we know that it makes you feel naked to go without your phone, even for two or three hours. You're just going to have to deal with it..
  • Fancy Watches: Not "fancy" as in blinged out. "Fancy" as in, watches that beep, make other noises, have an alarm, connect to the internet, etc.
  • MP3 Players, Radios, etc: After you rock "Eye of the Tiger" during your pregame routine, leave your iPod in you car or your locker.
  • Highlighters or colored pencils: We don't totally get this one, to be honest. But we don't make the rules, do we?
  • Laptop Computers or PDAs: For obvious reasons. One important exception: if you have a disability that requires you to use a computer to take a test, and you've made arrangements for approval beforehand, you may bring your computer.
  • Cameras: Again, for obvious reasons.
  • Books, Dictionaries, Scratch Paper, Notes, Cheat Sheets: No duh.
  • Compasses, rulers, protractors, etc: Why would you want to make the math section more complicated? Believe us, you can answer all of the math questions without any of these helpers.

The Aftermath

Assuming you don't try to smuggle a typewriter or other contraband into the exam room, you should be all set for a smooth test-taking experience. As the test unfolds, just keep one eye on the clock and take every opportunity to show off how much you know. You're going to do great.

And when the test is over, don't forget to celebrate. You just rocked a tough exam. You might be well on your way to being accepted to the college of your choice. You proved how smart you really are.

Go out to party with friends, or buy yourself an ice cream cone, or just curl up and take a nap on the couch.

You deserve it.

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