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Registering for the SAT and What to Bring on Test Day

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  • 0:01 About SAT Registration
  • 1:10 Registering
  • 3:33 Registration Tips
  • 5:13 Test Day
  • 6:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Watch this video lesson to learn how to register for the SAT, when the important deadlines are, tips for acing the registration process, and what to bring on test day.

About SAT Registration

Wouldn't it be convenient if you could just show up on test day and take the SAT? Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Standardized testing isn't like a test for a class, where your only job is to study. For the SAT, you're responsible for all the annoying administrative work that your teachers normally do for you. You'll need to register in advance, and the further ahead you plan, the better off you'll be.

It's impossible to stress this enough: start early. The SAT registration process rewards early birds and penalizes procrastinators. You should start thinking about registration and test dates as early as the summer before your junior year of high school.

Now that you're sufficiently forewarned about the schedule, it's time to learn how registration works. First, you decide when you want to take the test. The SAT is offered several times a year, usually in January, March, May, June, October, November, and December. There's no advantage or disadvantage to any particular date, so just choose whatever works for you. Many students take the test at least once in their junior year of high school and then again in their senior year.

Registering

Once you've picked your date, it's time to register. Registration opens several months before the test date, and there's no such thing as too early! You should pick your date and get ready to register at least a month in advance.

Why is this so important? For one thing, it saves you money. The last day to register at the regular price is about a month before test day. If you want to pay extra for late registration, you can sign up until about two weeks before the test - but it'll cost you an extra $29!

If you miss even that, you can register with waitlist status up to 5 days before the test for $49 on top of your test fee. That's even more expensive than late registration, and you're not guaranteed a seat. You show up to the test center and cross your fingers that they have space for you. If there's room, you'll get to test.

The lesson here is: don't put yourself through that. It's much better to plan ahead and register in time for the regular deadline.

When you know your test date and you're ready to register, first get together these three things:

  • A digital photo of yourself. This is used to verify your identity on test day. You need a high-quality photo that's easily recognizable as you, with no other people in the picture. It should be just your head and shoulders, with nothing covering your face. Think of an ID photo: that's what you're going for.
  • A credit card to pay for the test. The SAT costs $46 without the essay, or $60 with the essay - and that's without late registration fees. If you can't afford the fee, talk to the guidance counselor at your school about the CollegeBoard's fee waiver program.
  • Your Social Security number.

Then go to http://sat.collegeboard.org/register to make an account on the CollegeBoard's website and register for the test. Plan to spend about half an hour on this process, because you have to fill out a massive series of registration forms. You'll answer questions about your academic interests, your school, your parents' education, and other demographic information. Then you'll choose from available test centers in your area and decide whether you want to take the SAT with or without the essay. If space permits, you can change your mind about the essay on test day. Finally, you'll pay and get your admission ticket to download and print.

Registration Tips

If you think this all sounds like an incredible maze - you're not alone! SAT registration is complicated and time-consuming, partly because the CollegeBoard is a little paranoid about people cheating, but partly because it's just a complicated procedure. Here are some tips to make it a little easier:

  • The earlier you register, the better your choice of test centers. Another reason to get started as soon as you can! You don't want a long drive to a strange place on test day. The best test centers fill up fast, so register as early as you can to get a good spot. If you wait until the last minute, you'll be stuck with whatever you can get.
  • Only make one account. If you come back for a second registration and forget your password, it can be very tempting to just make another account and not worry about it. But, this can result in lost or delayed score reports as the CollegeBoard tries to figure out which account is really you. Write down your account information the first time, so you won't have this problem.
  • Use all your score reports. The registration fee includes four free score reports. Use them all! Otherwise, you'll have to cough up an extra $12 per score report. Remember: if you finish the test and just know you blew it, you can always cancel your scores on your way out the door, and no college will ever see them. So there's no risk in choosing four schools at registration and it saves you a lot of money.
  • Print your admission ticket. You'll get this at the end of the registration process. You won't get anything by mail; you'll have to print it out yourself. You need to bring a printout of your admission ticket to the test, or they won't let you in.

Test Day

By test day, you might have forgotten that you even registered in the first place! But remember: your admission ticket, the prize for all your registration-related labor, is required to get you into the test center, so don't forget to take it along on test day.

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