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My SAT experience (New York)

We requested one of our online students to share his experience on the SAT day. He took the SAT from New York City, NY, and shared us with his experience. He also sent us a picture that he took outside the test center. The exam took place on March 13th, Saturday, 2021. He took the SAT with the optional Essay section. This article is then polished and prepared for the blog by one of our moderators. 

Before the exam

I needed to print the ticket of my SAT exam. I was perhaps too lazy to read the whole instruction and realize beforehand that they do not accept the confirmation on your phone. Sadly enough, due to COVID, my mom was working from home, and we did not have any scope of printing the ticket from (her office) computer printer. I rushed to the nearby CVS and got that printed as a 4×6 photo. It looked weird. I admit.

In the morning

I took my schoolbag, and inside that I made sure I have the following items:

  1. Printed copy of the SAT ticket (the photograph in my case).
  2. My calculator (Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator).
  3. Five 2B pencils, all new and sharp. Mechanical pencils (the one that you push on the back and the wiry cylindrical tip comes out from the head) are not permitted on the SAT.
  4. 3 protein bars and some Oreo packs.
  5. Water bottle
  6. Driver’s license

My mother drove me to the SAT exam venue, which was at the nearby [name removed by editor] Highschool. It was chilly outside, and we took some drive through hot shake. I usually drink coffee, but this morning I decided to refrain from.

We reached there at 7.10AM and waited in our parked vehicle. My mom drove and I was scrolling over the SAT cheat-sheets on my phone.

Students were divided in two groups

At around 7.25AM, I saw a lady stepping out of a vehicle holding a bunch of papers in her hand. I easily recognized them as the SAT booklets and answer sheets. She instructed everyone to come out of the vehicle and gather around her. All of us were wearing masks. She then read our last names in two groups. One group were taking the SAT without essay, and they were told to follow another lady, who took them to a different location. The rest of us stayed there, who would be taking the exam with essay. We were taken inside the building and then near the room where the exam would take place. The lady checked our printed tickets and put a mark on her own list. Each student was guided to a desk, and the desks were amply spaced to confirm social distancing. I placed my bag under the chair. Then pencils, the ticket and the cell phone were kept on the desk.

There were about 15 students in the room. Mostly were African American; a few Asian and white Americans. I was the only Desi-looking person in the room.  The proctor was an African American lady in her early 30s, wearing a t shirt and jeans. Her shirt read “God is Dope”, in very large font.

Mobile phones were collected in a Ziploc bag.

At this time, she distributed a sticky note and a Ziploc bag. I turned off my phone, wrote my name on the paper, stuck that to the phone and placed inside the bag and closed it. The name could be visible from outside. She brought an empty carton to collect all the bags. She returned to her table and we waited for the next step.

She made sure that we do not have any unapproved electronic device. I saw that she had a good supply of pencils, although students brought their own ones.

Distribution of booklets and answer sheets

The proctor had a booklet on her own, which she used to read the instructions loudly. She was reading from the booklet and taking notes or checking boxes when completed, I guess.

Each student then received a thick question booklet and an answer booklet. The question booklet had about 80-ish pages. The answer booklet had 8 pages, I guess. She placed the booklets face down, and we were told not to touch them until instructed. Then she returned to her desk and started reading from her booklet.

The question booklet had different sections that we needed to copy on the answer sheet. Each booklet had its own code number. I was under an impression that all the students of a group will have same booklet, but it turned out that each of us had a different set of booklet with different code number (I assume).

The name, code and address of the exam venue was provided on the blackboard, and the proctor instructed to copy that on the answer sheet booklet.

Start of the exam

The exam started at around 8.35AM, when she told us to turn on the cover page. The first section is as usual the reading section with 52 MCQ questions and 65 minutes of length. She wrote the start time on the blackboard. While we were busy on exam, she was watching something on her laptop (some serious video I guess; her facial expression hinted so). She probably had a timer set on her phone, and notified us loudly when we had 30 minutes remaining. When the time was up, we were told to stop writing, place the answer sheet inside that specific part of the question booklet and, and place it face down on the desk. We did so and waiting silently.

I saw one student entered the room about 20 minutes after we started the exam. She silently cooperated her by giving her the booklet and pencils. I was under the impression that students are not allowed to be in when the door closes (as per the College Board policy and what I read in Facebook discussion groups, but I guess this is solely upon the discretion of the proctor).  


We were given 10 minutes of break. I took my snacks out of the bag, which had been placed underneath my chair, and walked out of the room. I took my ticket with me. The students were standing in the lobby, eating and drinking. We were not allowed to talk. Restrooms were allowed to be used, but only one person at a time. I did not need to go to the bathroom. I just finished my snacks and returned to my desk. She checked my ticket before letting me in the room. All students were back to their seats before the time was up.

Resume of the second block

At this time, the proctor again took her booklet and started reading for us. We were told to flip the booklet, open where we stopped and start the Writing and Language section. This section is short, 44 questions to be finished in 35 minutes. Like before, she wrote the start time on the blackboard and notified us when we were halfway through.

There was no break after the Writing section, and we were instructed to the Math part without calculator section. This section is the shortest, only 25 minutes. Math is my forte, and I finished it really fast.

Stretching Break

When the math without calculator section finished, we were told to place the answer sheet inside the question booklet like before, and remain at our desk. We were allowed to stand up and stretch if needed, but leaving the desk or going to the bathroom was not permitted.

Resume of the third block

At this point, she told us to bring the calculator out if we wanted. I took it out from my bag and placed on my desk. This section is long, and I knew that for some math problems I would be needing it, although I am a mental-math person.

There was a fifth section on my SAT

I was prepared to start my essay section after the math with calculator section, but it turned out that there was an extra section for all of us in the room.

The proctor instructed that if we had a math with calculator section then we could keep the calculator on the desk. Otherwise, we had to put the calculator down under the seat. My section was math with calculator, but I saw some students kept their calculator under their seats, suggesting they got Reading or math without calculator sections.

Resume of the essay section

We were not given any break before the essay section. We were instructed to move ahead to the essay page and started producing our responses on the answer sheet.

One student stood up from his seat and left the room. The proctor was not in the room at that time. I saw him talking to another lady (the lady who first met us at the parking lot in the morning), who was loudly saying “no sir, you can not dismiss yourself; go back to your seat and finish the section”. He returned to his seat.

Finishing the exam and dismissing from the venue

We finished the essay section, and the lady collected our booklets.  Then she gave a long lecture by reading from her manual. Then she told us to first take all or belongings, then approach to her desk one by one and collect the Ziploc bag with our name. By that time, my bladder was full, and I was famished. I thank the proctor and left the room. It was a long, exhaustive test experience for me.