It’s just another day and your future does not rest on these scores—so first and foremost, stay relaxed and focused on the task at hand. That said, let’s talk about what to bring with on exam day and let’s consider some additional items to help reduce the stress level while being prepared for your exam.
The required items include: Your admission ticket, your # 2 pencils, an approved calculator (formulae and dictionaries are forbidden—check the accepted list on the ACT or College Board websites) and photo identification. When it comes to pencils, it’s no big deal, but you may have a heavy hand and be just a tad bit stressed to use a mechanical pencil because these break easily when you apply too much pressure. I recommend buying a package of old fashioned wooden sharp pencils. Use these because a traditional pencil is less likely to break than a mechanical pencil and they are fun to use!
There are some optional items which can make your test taking more comfortable . If you have a cold or allergies, don’t’ forget to pack a travel tissue pack but do not take any medications that may make you drowsy. Do you tend to have minor stomach upset when you’re stressed—pack some soothing peppermints or even antacids. You cannot eat during the exam but there are designated breaks. Perhaps you might be too rushed or anxious to eat breakfast (you know yourself best – decide in advance ), but you should expect that you’re going to be potentially hungry or even experience a sugar low sometime in the middle of your SAT or ACT. Pack some high protein snacks—granola bars, protein bars, or trail mix can provide extra fuel. Food and drink are not allowed in the exam room. If you are a diabetic, please arrange for test taking accommodations in advance allowing you to consume food during the exam. AP exams are smack in the middle of allergy season. If you know your allergy medication causes you to be extra thirsty, arrange in advance for test taking accommodations allowing you to have water during the exam. The reality – If you pull out a bottle of water to down a Motrin in the middle of the exam, your exam proctor might ignore you; however, the individual can eject you for reaching into your bag (not to mention the distraction to others) and consuming water. (You also run the risk of spilling it all over your essay!)
Be prepared! Put new batteries in your calculator and bring a second set just in case. If nothing else, you’ll have done someone a huge favor by having those spares when their calculator dies smack in the middle of an SATII Math IIC exam! If you’re superstitious, pack a second calculator just because you can.
Turn off your phone and any other alarms. Pesky proctors can in fact eject you from the exam (if they want to be nasty) for having any alarm sound. Do pack a watch (without an alarm) and learn how to pace yourself being aware of how much time you have remaining for each section of your exam.
Wear layers of clothing. The exam room can become too hot or too cold and you want to be able to adjust quickly. Someone else in the room can complain about the temperature and once the change is made, your comfort level may cease to exist. Be prepared to layer up or down without costing yourself precious exam taking time. Temperature comfort includes socks. Don’t wear shoes that are too hard to kick off quickly. Most people find that they shift how they sit and it’s nice to have options to quickly place your feet / legs on your chair without bothering to waste any time on laced shoes or clunky boots. Long hair ? –don’t forget a pony tail holder!
Bring your good luck charm – keep it in your bag so you aren’t unnerved by some snarky comment someone makes about your favorite stuffed animal who hitched a ride on exam day. If you want it with you, bring it- but it’s your secret and probably not for display.
Most colleges “superscore” so you can take comfort in knowing that if you already feel you didn’t do particularly well on one section of the exam, you’ll have another opportunity to retake the SAT or ACT. Regarding SATII subject tests, you can cancel your score by walking into the guidance office/test administrator immediately following the completion of the exam. This option should be used in extreme situations. Above all, if you are ill – don’t take any exam unless you are 100% on your game on exam day! If you’re ill, you’ll simply register for the next scheduled exam. In case you were wondering, there are AP make-up exam dates because yes, people do miss exams for legitimate reasons.
Finally—If you are feeling too much stress with upcoming exams, try to regain perspective on their relative (un)importance. Obtaining coaching to mentally prepare yourself for exam day and the initial (stress) moments of a test can be beneficial.