How to Choose the Best SAT Test Center?

Does the test location even matter? I remember looking over all the possible SAT locations and wondering which location would be best to take the test. Would it be quiet or noisy? Would there be a lot of kids I knew there? Would that be a distraction? A multitude of thoughts ran through my mind. And after taking the SAT test and SAT subject tests in different locations, I can claim that the location definitely matters.

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[Continue reading to find out which location you should choose…]

1. Don’t assume that having the fanciest or most expensive school/test center means that it is the best test location for you. Everyone is different and every school/test center has its own quirks and differences that might suit you or work against you. For example, some schools carry out the test in classrooms while others use large lecture theatres or the school gym, which can be distracting. Some schools even use their cafeterias, which can be incredibly noisy, as the testing grounds. Some students might prefer taking the test in a ‘white noise’ environment that helps them to concentrate better while others might prefer taking the test in a completely silent environment. Reflect a little on what kind of test-taker you are and input your preferences accordingly!

2. The best test centers are those which have certain ideal equipment like a large enough desk, a relatively big room, and a visible working clock. Imagine having to take the test on a small desk and having to balance your calculator on your knees while you tackle the math section. Although there are certain official test center rules, including the rule that desks are to be a minimum of four feet apart in every direction, not every test center follows this rule to the letter.

3. The test center should be relatively near to your house. Although a school might seem to have ideal conditions for you, certain complications might arise on test day. For example, you might wake up late and the long drive over would not do your any good. Additionally, if the school is in an area that you are not familiar with, getting lost right before your test would worsen your anxiety.

So before signing up for the SAT, it is definitely important and worthwhile to consider these details before clicking that button. You might want to confirm with the test center supervisor at the school/test center.

These are also the official test center rules for your reference:

  • Desks must have a minimum writing surface of twelve by fifteen inches.
  • Desks are to be a minimum of four feet apart in every direction.
  • A working clock must be visible.
  • Staff must possess unquestionable integrity and sound judgment.
  • Test rooms should be away from noisy and distracting activities.

Good luck!

About the author: Shimin Ooi is a junior in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs department. She has a strong interest in economic and health policy and has recently returned from a semester of study at Hertford College, Oxford. In high school, her extensive research on standardized tests helped her achieve a near perfect SAT score and perfect scores on each of her SAT Subject tests. Through these blog posts, she hopes to help others achieve test-taking success as well!

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