SAT Test Day Checklist: What to Bring and How to Prepare

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  • Not all colleges and universities require the SAT, so check with prospective schools.
  • Examinees must print their admission tickets to enter the testing center.
  • Several items are prohibited on test day, including mobile phones.

According to the College Board, almost 2.2 million students took the SAT in 2020, a number on par with the previous year's findings. While some colleges have paused requirements for standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, other schools still require test scores.

Some schools have made submitting these scores voluntary, meaning learners may still want to share their scores if they're happy with their results. Keep reading to learn what to do after registering for the SAT, including the night before and the morning of the test.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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What Time Does the SAT Test Start and End?

In most cases, the SAT exam starts between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. However, students should plan to arrive no later than 7:45 a.m. Those who arrive after this time may not be admitted, as doors typically close by 8 a.m.

As of 2022, the SAT lasts three hours, meaning students usually get released between 11:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. Each test section lasts for a specific amount of time, based on the number of questions and difficulty level.

What to Bring on SAT Test Day

Students receive a list of mandatory items to bring with them on SAT test day, as well as some optional items to help the day go smoothly.

  • SAT Admission Ticket: Test-takers must print their tickets before arriving or they will not be admitted.
  • Valid Photo ID: The College Board provides a list of approved forms of photo identification that examinees can present.
  • Two No. 2 Pencils With Erasers: Examinees use these approved pencils to fill in bubble answers for each question.
  • Approved Calculator: Students can find information on approved calculators from the College Board. They should also bring extra batteries.
  • Mask: While testing centers may soon drop mask requirements, some testing locations still require them — especially those in communities with high COVID-19 counts.
  • Bag (Optional): Taking a bag or backpack allows students to supply personal belongings and SAT materials.
  • Watch (Optional): Because smartwatches and phones are not allowed, a watch can help you keep track of time.
  • Drink and Snack (Optional): Drinks and snacks can be enjoyed during the break or after the exam.

How to Prepare the Night Before the SAT

Following the tips and tricks outlined below can help examinees adequately prepare for the SAT the night before.

Don't Overstudy (or Study at All)

Trying to cram the night before the SAT may feel like a worthwhile, last-ditch effort, but it can make it more difficult to remember information and perform well on the exam. Try to avoid studying the night before and prioritize resting your brain instead.

Check for Test Center Closings

Given the challenges COVID-19 has caused to academia, it's a good idea to make sure your test center doesn't have any unexpected closings the night before the big test. The College Board provides a list of centers so students can make sure their testing center is open.

Gather Your Materials and Plan Your Morning

Because you may be busy and nervous the morning of your test, it's a good idea to pack your backpack with personal belongings and SAT materials the night before. By getting this done ahead of time, you'll have one less thing to worry about when you wake up.

Get Plenty of Rest

Taking a big exam with a foggy brain can impact your ability to do your best, making it important to get a full night's rest the night before. Try to go to sleep at your normal bedtime and wake up at your usual time. Aim to get at least eight hours of rest.

What to Do the Morning of the SAT

What you do in the morning can set the tone for how the test day goes. Follow these steps to limit your stress the morning of the SAT.

Eat a Balanced Breakfast and Drink Water

A balanced breakfast with protein, carbs, and healthy fats can help students start their morning right by providing the fuel needed to power through a three-hour exam. Some examples include oatmeal, yogurt with berries, and eggs and toast. It's also a good idea to drink water and stay hydrated.

Follow Your Normal Morning Routine

Consistency is key when it comes to keeping calm and limiting anxiety, and following your normal morning routine can help a lot. If you usually drink a cup of coffee and walk your pet, stick with that. Just make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the testing center.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

Because you'll be sitting at a table taking an exam for three hours, comfort is key. Wear pants and a shirt that are loose, soft, and comfortable. Bring a jacket, too, in case it's chilly at the testing center.

Leave for the Test Center Early

Failing to arrive at the test center early can result in being turned away, as doors close at least 15 minutes before the exam starts. If the test starts at 8 a.m., arrive no later than 7:45 a.m. You should also leave time to account for traffic and to find the testing site if it's in an unfamiliar location.

Frequently Asked Questions About SAT Test Day

How do I print my SAT admission ticket?

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All SAT test-takers must print their SAT admission ticket to enter the testing center. Students who show their tickets on a smartphone will not be admitted.

To print an SAT admission ticket, you must sign in to the My SAT portal. You should have created an account on the portal when you signed up to take the exam, so use the same login information. From there, you will see a drop-down menu that says "Print Admission Ticket." This will open a new PDF window and allow you to print the ticket.

Can I bring my phone when I take the SAT?

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The College Board does not allow mobile phones into the testing center, and students cannot use them during breaks either. That said, test-takers can bring their phone in their bag as part of their personal belongings. It must stay securely locked for the entire exam.

Students caught with a smartphone during the test or break period may be asked to leave, and their tests will be voided. They will need to resit for the exam to receive a score.

What can you not bring to the SAT?

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The College Board provides a comprehensive list of prohibited items. In addition to smartphones, examinees cannot bring smartwatches. They are, however, allowed to use an analog watch. Other prohibited items include cameras, timers, audio players or recorders, Bluetooth devices, and any type of personal computing device.

Only No. 2 pencils are allowed, meaning students should not bring highlighters, pens, mechanical pencils, or any type of colored writing device. They also cannot bring textbooks or reference materials, compasses or rulers, or any type of paper. Proctors will provide scratch paper as needed.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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