Location Location

Having taken the SAT 7 times in 5  different locations, I can attest: location matters.

Before the project, I naturally assumed, Best Experience =  Nicest School. That turned out to be upside down and backwards.

Some schools give the test in a quiet classroom with a single proctor while others use the school gym (which echoes) or a cafeteria (also noisy). Details such as desk size and room type can make a big difference in the experience (and in your score).

Official Test Center Rules:

*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.


Suggestions based on experience:

*Desks should be larger than twelve by fifteen inches for optimal performance.

*Tests should be taken in classrooms, which have fewer distractions than gyms and cafeterias.

*Choose a front-row seat to minimize visual distractions.

*A wristwatch is essential. Don’t assume the proctor will keep time properly. Practice giving yourself your own five-minute warnings.

Before you sign up for the SAT, it is worth considering these details and confirming with the “test center supervisor” at the school.  Unfortunately, the best location might not be at your own school.

Incidentally, my favorite location turned out to be a public school in the Bronx, where students had to pass through a metal detector before taking the SAT, and my least favorite experience was in the gym of a private school in the suburbs of Westchester.

The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT will be published by Crown Books in February 2014.

Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis