I Can’t Believe That Happened During My Test!

Wait, what happened?

It is test day.  You have been preparing for your SAT/ACT for months.  You have completed countless practice sections and a practice test. You have gained confidence and developed strategies.  You are ready to rock the test!

But then, the unexpected happens: just as the proctor tells you to begin, the marching band begins practicing outside your testing room!

Sometimes life throws you curve balls.  An important part of your test day preparation is being aware that not every test administration runs perfectly.  The following are a few examples of unexpected circumstances our students have encountered while taking the SAT or ACT:

  • Distracting noises outside the classroom (e.g. lawnmowers, band practice, etc.)
  • The clock not being visible from a student’s chair or no clock in the classroom at all
  • The proctor making noise or conversing with another individual in the room
  • The proctor mis-timing a section and shortchanging students of valuable minutes.
  • The proctor explaining the rules incorrectly
  • The proctor denying a student entry based on a concern with his admissions ticket/ID
  • The proctor denying use of a watch, calculator, or calculator program

What can you do if any of these scenarios happen at your test center?

Preempt circumstances that are within your control:

  • Read the Terms and Conditions for your test (SAT, ACT) so that you know your rights according to the rules and regulations of the test.
  • Bring your own watch. It cannot have “smart” features or make any noise.  Your Marks Education tutor will be able to provide you with a customized testing watch.
  • Bring multiple sharpened pencils and erasers.
  • Bring extra batteries for your calculator or a backup calculator.
  • Eat a substantial breakfast and pack hearty snacks.

Advocate for yourself

Many test administration irregularities are circumstances beyond your control.  In these instances, you must advocate for yourself.

Sometimes it can be intimidating to advocate for yourself, especially when it means confronting an adult.  However, consider yourself the hero.  If you are being adversely affected by a situation, it is likely impacting other students too.  You are not just speaking up for yourself but for the whole classroom.

[su_box title=”How to advocate” box_color=”003366″ title_color=”#0c5976″ radius=”18″]

For some students, advocating comes naturally.  For many, it does not.  If you are not sure how to do so effectively, try using the “Dear ____,” structure.

“Dear” is an acronym to help you articulate your request in a respectful, yet confident manner.

The framework is as follows:

D– Describe the situation (What are the circumstances prompting your request?)

E– Express how you are feeling (Emotions convey why your request is important.)

A– Ask for what you need (Be direct in stating your request.)

R– Reinforce your request (Why should this person grant your request?)

Here is an example of how you might advocate for yourself during a test:

To proctor: “Excuse me.  (D) I’m aware that the grounds crew needs to work this morning; however, I am having trouble concentrating because of the noise.  (E) I’m worried that I am not going to be able to perform at my best because of this distraction.  (A) Could you ask the test administrator if the grounds crew could suspend or alter the nature of their work until the test is over?  (R) I would really appreciate it if you could ask, and I’m sure the rest of the students would as well.  This test is very important for us.”

(Source:  Marsha Linehan, PHD.)



When advocating is not successful

First, congratulations!  You advocated for yourself and your peers.

When your request is not granted, stop and take five deep breaths.  You are likely feeling rattled and your doomsday thoughts are racing.  Acknowledge that the situation is what it is, but it does not have to get in your head.  You are still prepared.  You can still do well.  Give it your best shot.

When the test is over, if you believe the circumstances of the test center were detrimental to your performance, you can appeal to either the College Board or the ACT Board.  In some instances, both companies have compensated for test center problems by waiving the registration fee for another test date.

SAT Reporting Process: Email testcenter@info.collegeboard.org or call 609-771-7710 to report the testing irregularity within four weekdays of your test date.

ACT Reporting Process:  Complete the Test Center Feedback Form within two weeks of your test date.

At Marks Education, your individual tutor will help you create a test day plan so that you are ready to handle anything that test day might throw at you.  If you are interested in learning more about tutoring, contact us…

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