How SATs Work

Can I Study for the SAT?

That's a good question and one that educational experts still debate. The College Board stops short of endorsing the use of test prep services, which can charge hundreds of dollars per person per prep course. Board officials maintain that the nature of the SAT makes it difficult to study, or "cram" for and that your best bet is to take academically challenging, pre-collegiate courses in high school and to keep your study habits strong and your grades high. The College Board suggests that taking the PSAT/NMSQT is a good way to prepare (it also gets you on college mailing lists) as are studying the types of questions in the SAT and taking the sample SAT I, which is provided free at high schools.

On the other side of the fence sit test prep giants making millions of dollars each year offering courses designed to help students boost their performances on the SAT, PSAT, ACT and a variety of other academic and professional tests. These companies resent any implication that they teach students test-taking "tricks," saying that their businesses spend a lot of money on specialized research aimed at learning what it takes to get good test scores and that they pass those findings on to course-takers. Some test-prep companies even guarantee specific score increases. If the scores aren't there, these firms offer cash back or, more often, a free repeat of the course. (There are many of these services, so cruise the Internet and your local telephone directory if you're interested.)


Tests Make Me Nervous -- What If I Panic?

It's very important not to panic -- if you panic when you take the test, it doesn't really measure what you can accomplish. Take a look at one person's tips for staying calm before test day.

You're less likely to be nervous if you go prepared to take your test. Remember to bring these things to the test center:

  • Your admission ticket (which will have been mailed to you in advance)
  • Two No. 2 pencils and a good eraser
  • Approved identification (you won't be admitted without it!) -- Approved ID will have a photograph or written physical description, your name and your signature (for example, driver's license, school picture ID card, valid passport -- See How a Passport Works.)
  • Acceptable calculator, only if you are taking the SAT I, SAT II: Math Level IC or Math Level IIC

There are also some things you cannot bring to the test center. These include the following:

  • A watch with an audible alarm
  • Food or drink
  • Scratch paper
  • Notes, dictionaries, books
  • Compasses, rulers, protractors or any other aids
  • Colored pens, pencils or highlighters
  • Cell phones or pagers
  • Portable listening or recording devices (this doesn't apply if you're taking an SAT II language listening test.)