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Everything You Need to Bring on SAT Test Day

You’ve studied hard for the SAT for months, and now your head is filled with the rules of grammar, transition words, the Pythagorean theorem, and trigonometric identities. With all this work, and all this information jamming your head, you might be worried you’ll forget to bring what you need on the morning of the test. But have no fear: we’ve made a list for you.

The essentials you need to bring are a printed admission ticket, an unexpired government or school ID with a photograph, pencils and an eraser, and a scientific or graphing calculator.

Below is a full elaboration of this list, along with some other (optional) things you might want to bring along on test day.

Your Admission Ticket

You won’t be admitted to the testing center without a paper copy of your admission ticket, no exceptions.

Even in the era of the smartphone, the College Board remains decidedly old-school when it comes to your admissions ticket, which means you’ll need to print off yours before leaving for the test.

To print your ticket, log in to your College Board account and select “Print Admission Ticket.”

If you’re anything like this test-taker, and haven’t had a printer at home in years, you should remember to print out a copy at your school library, or have your one of your parents print it out for you at their office. You can also print the ticket out for a reasonable fee at places like FedEx Office or Staples. Just remember to do this before test day!

There’s nothing more anxiety-provoking than having to scramble around looking for a printer an hour before the SAT.

Your Photo ID

Bring an unexpired government ID with you, and remember that that ID should match or closely resemble your College Board picture.

Along with your admission ticket, you’ll need to have an acceptable form of photo ID in order to be admitted to the test center. What fits the bill? Your driver’s license or learner’s permit, a passport, a military ID or national ID, or a current school ID card.

If you don’t have any of these things, you can ask your school to fill out a Student ID form for you, as a replacement. Remember to ask for this well in advance of the test!

If you think there’s even a slight chance that your ID doesn’t match what the College Board has, pick another form of ID to use or address it with the College Board in advance of the test date. (Try to do this a few weeks before the test if you have to: the College Board moves slowly.)

You won’t be able to use many of the other forms of ID you might have in your wallet—credit or debit cards, Social Security cards or birth certificates, employee IDs, et cetera.

Bottom line: the best thing to do is bring a couple acceptable forms of ID with you on test day—it’s never a bad idea to have a backup.

Two Pencils and an Eraser

Bring along at least two of your favorite pencils, with erasers.

It might seem trivial, but put some thought into what type of pencils you bring with you on test day. You should choose something you’re used to and comfortable with using.

Personally, I prefer mechanical pencils with erasers at the tips. But some of my students say the lead in mechanical pencils breaks too easily, and prefer good old-fashioned #2 pencils and gum erasers. (You’re allowed to bring a pencil sharpener, although all your pencils should be sharpened in advance so you don’t have to waste time doing this.) Go with what you like.

And it never hurts to bring two or three extra—you probably won’t end up needing them, but you never know. You might end up being an unprepared classmate’s hero if you lend him one before the test!

As useful as they might be on the Reading test, you’re not allowed to use highlighters, so don’t bother bringing them. Nor are you allowed to use pens. And don’t bring white-out for the Essay section, either. It’s not allowed. All you need to do to correct errors is write a clean line through your mistake, and write the correction next to it, or above it with a carrot (^) indicating the change. This is what the Essay graders will expect.

A Graphing or Scientific Calculator

Bring a graphing or scientific calculator, along with an extra battery, for the Math with Calculator section.

A basic four-function (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) calculator won’t give you all the functionality you need to perform your best on the SAT. You should bring either a graphing or scientific calculator (in most cases, the calculator you use in your high school math and science classes will suffice). Make sure you know how to use this calculator, and replace the battery in the days before the test. Just in case something goes wrong, it’s not a bad idea to bring a back-up battery, too.

If, like most students, you use a Texas Instruments (TI) calculator, you most likely have a College Board-approved calculator. Here’s a partial list of some of the more popular versions that are allowed for use on the SAT:

  • TI-30 (including multiview)
  • TI-34
  • TI-82
  • TI-83
  • TI-84 (including the new color models)
  • TI-89 (including Titanium)
  • TI-Nspire (all models)
  • TI-Nspire CAS (all models)

You probably know this by now, but you absolutely cannot use your iPhone, iPhone or other smart device as a calculator. You can’t use anything that needs to be plugged in, prints, or makes noise, obviously. And you can’t use super-advanced calculators, a list of which the College Board website provides. The College Board website has a comprehensive list of acceptable calculators if you’re unsure if yours will be permitted.

A Watch

Bring a wristwatch so you can keep your own time.

Although it’s not required, I highly recommend bringing a simple wristwatch so you can keep your own time and track your pace on the SAT. Don’t use one with a lot of bells and whistles, or one that makes too much noise, as it won’t be permitted in the test center.

The proctor will announce time at a few points during the test, and there will be a clock on the wall in the test center, but just in case it’s hard for you to see, it will come in really handy to have your own watch for the test. The only reason not to bring a watch is if you think it will distract you or make you anxious during the test. If this is the case, forgo it.

If you don’t own a wristwatch, you can buy a good one at places like Target, Wal-Mart or Kohl’s. Remember, you don’t need to make a fashion statement with this watch—the barest-bones, cheapest watch you can find will absolutely do. So stick with the basics for now, and you can buy a gold-plated blinged-out version after your SAT success makes you a millionaire, haha!

Snacks and a Bottle of Water

Bring some healthy snacks and a bottle of water to re-energize and hydrate during test breaks.

You should eat a healthy breakfast on the morning of the test. This means something with protein to give you energy, and nothing too heavy, so you won’t be sluggish during the test. This might not be enough to get you through the entire test, though, so it’s a good idea to bring some healthy snacks—mixed nuts, vegetables, string cheese, peanut butter, crackers—to munch on during test breaks.

A bottle of water is another good thing to have. Taking the SAT is not unlike running a marathon—even though it’s your brain and not your body that’s being taxed, it’s still important to a fully-functioning you that you remain hydrated. So bring a bottle of water. At the very least, it will prevent you from having to spend your entire break waiting in line for the water fountain!

A Rested and Ready You

Get a good night’s sleep and calm yourself.

In order to perform at the top of your game on test day, you should make sure to give yourself a break the night before the test—no cramming!—and get a full night’s sleep. (If you’re someone who needs more than eight hours to feel good, budget for this.) Don’t take any sleep meds or supplements if you’ve never used them before. Many of these sleep aids can leave you feeling extremely groggy and fuzzy-headed the next day.

If you happen to suffer from anxiety—test-day or otherwise—you can try meditation to calm yourself. A very effective method of meditation I recommend to my students is to pick a word and repeat it to yourself in your head, with your eyes closed, for 20 minutes. Your thoughts will likely stray from this word (your “mantra”) to thoughts of the test. When this happens, don’t get frustrated—just bring your focus back to the mantra. This type of meditation has been scientifically proven to lower anxiety and improve well-being.

Best of luck on the test!



Clay Cooper

Clay has scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT, ACT, PSAT, LSAT, and ISEE, among other standardized tests. He has taught and developed courses for high school, college, and graduate-level standardized tests extensively around the country, and specializes in the field. He has studied law at Georgetown University Law Center and worked in the legal field as well, for attorneys, judges, and the Tennessee Attorney General.