After my terrible SAT experience last Saturday, I decided to look into whether or not any official rules had been broken.
Turns out there is an official SAT rule guide, The SAT Standard Testing Room Manual, which I think is worth reading before you take an SAT (especially Section A, which is only 11 pages long).
From the first paragraph:
"The SAT Program has established policies and procedures to ensure that all students can test under a uniform set of conditions .... All students are to be protected from disturbance. By strictly following our policies and procedures, you give students the best guarantee of fair testing."
Personally, I felt intimidated to say something to the proctor because I wasn't sure if official "rules" were broken, or whether they were "courtesies" he was forgoing.
And if I had trouble speaking up (i.e. a grown up who's not usually afraid to speak her mind), I imagine it would be even more difficult for a teenager to muster the courage -- especially if he or she isn't even sure about the official rules.
I did speak to the proctor at the first break and told him that lopping off five minutes of our time mid-way through a Reading Section really threw me -- and he responded by saying, "it was the lesser of two evils," which did not leave me inclined to speak up again, when the noise disturbances from other kids who had finished the test in the same gym became so loud that they echoed for our last 4 sections.
Turns out this proctor was wrong. It was not "the lesser of two evils" to cut off five minutes of our time, mid-section. In fact there there is an official rule in the manual for this exact situation: "Overtiming: Make no adjustment."
That was just the beginning of the broken rules last Saturday.....
1) The "Visible Clock" Rule:
I have experienced this "visible clock" issue a few times over the course of the 6 SATs I've taken this year (5 different locations). But, "lack of visibility" last Saturday was the least of my problems.
Start with the fact that the proctor inexplicably wrote the time down in the middle of the the Essay Section (after telling us before we started that he had no chalk to do so) -- but he didn't write it in our time zone time -- because, as he later explained to me when I asked, the (non-visible) clock turned out not to be in our time zone.
Fine, except that it confused me to see "a time" (but not our time) suddenly appear on the blackboard without explanation.
Also, there were no "regular" time warnings, as mentioned above in the manual -- I'd say they were more sporadic in nature (i.e. "2 minutes," or nothing at all....)
2) Desk Size (Avoid having a "deskette" experience):
To be fair, my deskette last Saturday probably did meet this "official standard" -- but I'm going to tell you now, that's too small for an optimal SAT experience. 12" by 15" holds ONE 8 x 11 test booklet -- except that there are TWO booklets that need holding when you take the SAT (plus your calculator for math sections, and pencils).
Lack of proper desk space adds a juggle variable to the SAT experience that is distracting, time consuming, stressful, and noisy. Try to find an SAT location with full desks (i.e. ask your friends).
3) Adult Test Takers:
I've experienced "assigned seating" once out of 6 SATs, and the fact of the matter is that I was assigned the front and center seat. Not sure if that was a coincidence.
4) Timing and Breaks:
I believe this rule was carefully followed at every other SAT that I took this year, which is how I ended up lulled into complacency last Saturday. I had grown to expect this rule to be followed, and when it wasn't (starting in Section 3), I was thrown for such a loop I had trouble recovering. Or maybe I was thrown off when the time mysteriously appeared on the board in a different time zone. I don't know. Either way, this "Timing Policy" wasn't followed, and it messed with me.
5) Reporting Irregularities:
I have no idea whether or not our proctor reported the "timing irregularities" that day.
6) Student Complaints:
Ok, I'm not "a student," but I did have many of these same complaints.
I could continue on with these screen shots of broken rules from last weekend, but instead I'll just reiterate that any SAT test taker should read pages 1-11 of The SAT Standard Testing Room Manual before test day.
And speak up if a rule is broken!
UPDATED: Test Prep Coach left interesting comment well worth reading, including this link from the New York Times about the SAT test conditions.
Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis