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What to Bring and What Not to Bring on Test Day


Some of the most common questions we get at the Learning Island involve what you are and are not allowed to bring to the ACT and SAT. With that in mind, here is a list of what you absolutely must have on test day, what we recommend bringing, and what you are prohibited from having on your person during the exam. As we mentioned in the Week of Test Tips blog, you should put your ACT/SAT gear together the night before the test. This way, you can simply grab what you need and go, giving you one less thing to think about the morning of the test.



Must Have Items


Admission Ticket and Photo ID

These are absolutely essential. Without them you won’t be allowed to take the test. Acceptable forms of photo identification include a school ID card, a driver’s license or learner’s permit, and a passport. If you don’t have any of these, you can download an official ACT or SAT test identification form from the exam’s official website and have it notarized by your school. For your admission ticket, it’s a good idea to print an extra copy just in case you lose the other one. If your test has been rescheduled, make sure you print the ticket for the new exam date.


Several no. 2 Pencils

Soft lead no. 2 pencils are the only writing instruments allowed on the ACT and SAT. Pens and even mechanical pencils are not allowed. Make sure your pencils are sharp and the erasers are new. If you are taking ACT Writing or the SAT Essay, we recommend having a couple of pencils that you save just for that section.


Approved Calculator

Most scientific and graphing calculators are allowed on the ACT and SAT. However, any calculator with built in algebraic functions is prohibited on both exams. This includes some of the more popular Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard, and Casio calculators used in high school. Check that your calculator is not on your exam’s prohibited list far enough in advance of the test that you can buy a replacement if necessary.



Recommended Items


A Pencil Sharpener

While you should bring plenty of sharpened pencils, it can’t hurt to have a sharpener just in case you have a run off bad luck and break several of them.


Extra Calculator Batteries

Just as you won’t want to run out of sharp pencils, you don’t want to risk your calculator’s batteries giving out prematurely.


A Drink and Snack

It’s a good idea to bring a beverage and a high protein snack for one of the breaks. A bottle of water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can do wonders to help ward off test fatigue. Resist the urge to bring a caffeinated beverage. You may feel energized for a while, but you will risk having a caffeine crash during the crucial last leg of the exam.


A Watch or Test Timer

Looking up at the test room’s clock takes valuable seconds that you could be spending on the exam. Instead, consider a cheap digital watch that you can glance at to keep yourself on track. Make sure the alarm is disabled. If it goes off during the exam, you will be disqualified. If you’ve struggled with pacing during your practice tests, consider buying a test-timer. Also called a digital pacing watch, a test-timer has built in modes for the different sections of each test and additional visual cues for how much time you have remaining. In addition, the alarm on a test-timer cannot go off when the watch is in “test mode.”


A Sweater or Light Jacket

Because the ACT and SAT are administered on weekends, you can’t count on the school’s climate controls being set perfectly. Depending on where and when you take the test, the room may be much warmer or cooler than you are used to. Dress lightly and bring an addition layer in case the temperature of the room changes during the exam.


What Not to Bring


Mechanical Pencils, Highlighters, and Pens

You won’t be allowed to use any of these, so there’s no sense in bringing them.


Scratch Paper

You can’t bring any papers into the test room. Instead, you will either be allowed to write in your test booklet or provided with scratch paper during the exam.


ACT/SAT Books or School Textbooks

Obviously, you aren’t allowed to bring any books with you that might give you an unfair advantage on the test. In addition, the breaks on both exams are quite short. You won’t have time to do any homework during the breaks, even if you want to.


Cell Phones and Tablets

As a general rule, you should leave your cell phone in your car or at home on test day. If you must bring your cell phone with you (say to call your parents for a ride after the exam), turn it off before you enter the test room. If you cell phone rings, buzzers, or makes any other noise during the exam, you will be immediately disqualified.





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