At this point, I’m sure we’re all blessedly aware that both the SAT and ACT are necessary, albeit uncomfortable and annoying, aspects of the college admissions process. I don’t know about you guys, but when I was taking my SAT I had this strange feeling that people were watching me.
Sure, security in the testing room was tight and my proctor was much more interested in her copy of US Weekly (which, by the way, J-Lo is returning to American Idol, Kim Kardashian is almost back to her pre-pregnancy bod, and Jessica Alba has admitted to having cellulite. Fascinating, I know.) than overseeing twenty-five terrified test-taking teenagers, but the SAT came along with this inexplicable sensation that I was the heroine in a scary movie, with legions of guidance counselors, college admissions officers, and family members sitting on the other side of the screen, eating buttered popcorn and watching my every move through 3-D glasses.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic here, but I’m sure you can relate. Although test scores are (allegedly) designed to be private and shared at the test-takers discretion, it’s easy to feel like all eyes are on you in the testing room.
Here are some worst-case SAT/ACT scenarios that are bound to make your next venture into the world of standardized testing feel a little bit less like Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
1. Looking up ten minutes into the math section only to discover that there are several cockroaches skittering around on the carpet next to you. No joke, this happened to me during not only my SAT, but also my ACT. I have this theory that cockroaches and other insects thrive on the anxiety brought on by standardized testing. There’s not really anything you can do in this situation, so just do what I did: keep your feet off the ground and your head down low. If you spend the last ten minutes of a test section gaping at rogue cockroaches, you run the risk of not finishing your test on time and being accused of cheating.
2. The only timepiece in the room is an old, yellowing analog clock (You cannot read analog clocks.). One of my dear friends encountered this issue during the science portion of her ACT. My advice to you is to bring your own digital watch if you’re offended by all things analog. Alternatively, you could just learn how to read an analog clock, you uncultured swine (really, though, bring a watch; some testing rooms might have clocks that don’t sync with your proctor’s iPhone timer.).
3. You have a Pitbull song stuck in your head for the entirety of the testing section. This is probably one of the worst things that can happen while taking a test. Getting “Don’t Stop the Party” playing on loop in your head is basically the Long Island Tea of the test-taking world: it’ll feel okay at first, but after a few minutes you’re going to want to start drilling sharpened No. 2 pencils into your head.
4. You’re surrounded by dudebros who reek of cologne. Too much Axe wafting about in the room and you’re going to feel like there’s an actual axe in your head. Lay off on the cologne, help your fellow test-takers out and don’t be the dudebro in this situation. Problem solved!
5. Your proctor decides to leave in the middle of a section. Chaos erupts. I’ve heard stories of this actually happening (although it’s against testing protocol) and complete cheating orgies occurring because of it. Although retesting is a definite drag, tests like the SAT or ACT rely upon accurately tabulated results. Always make sure to report incidences of cheating. A retested score is better than one based upon skewed results.
6. The testing room is so cold it feels like you’re calculating the area of a rectangle in Sochi, Russia. Bring an easy-on, easy-off jacket or cardigan. Zip-up or button-down is preferred. When you’re warm and comfortable, test-taking can go off without a hitch. Like luging in the Winter Olympics. Or bobsledding. I’m going to stop now.
7. Alternatively, the testing room is so warm that you’re dripping sweat onto your answer sheet. Wear a lightweight shirt underneath said jacket or cardigan. Stick to jeans or lightweight sweatpants, as both can trap heat if it’s too cold but also are breathable.
8. The innocent-looking girl sitting next to you keeps sneaking glances at your answers. Again, report all incidences of cheating. Also, refuse to be the victim in this situation: it takes two people to cheat, so make sure you keep your answers covered by both your arm and your testing booklet. The testing gods will thank you.