No one likes to be a tattletale. Okay, most people don’t like to be a tattletale. However, when your future dream college is at stake, which it is when you take the SAT/ACT as it accounts for 30-50% of your college application, you NEED to be a tattletale when there are testing issues.
In this article, I'll run through a list of common problems at testing sites such as:
- Instruction Issues
- Timing Issues
- Noise Issues
- Break Issues
- Possible Cheating
If any of these issues occur, you should speak up! Let your proctor(s) know, and if they don’t listen, contact the College Board or ACT after the test (as you are not allowed to access your phone during the test).
Most of these issues are based on my personal experience taking the SAT in South Los Angeles. The experience was a nightmare, and it was heavily unfair to the students I took it with.
Issues can begin before the test even starts. The instructions are very important. If you do not understand the instructions clearly when your proctor reads them, ask them questions about the instructions. Do not feel weird about this. Again, your future is at stake.
Make sure you understand the instructions fully.
Speak up! If your proctor cannot answer your question, ask them to ask another proctor on the campus or ask them to call the College Board or ACT office. NOTE: Because there are many incompetent proctors, as I learned personally when I sat for the June 6th SAT, try to make sure you understand the instructions for the test BEFORE you go sit for the test.
Read the instructions on an SAT practice test such as one of these free ones or ACT practice test such as one of these free ones. Read them at least a week in advance of your test date. That way, if you have any questions about them, you have plenty of time to call or email the College Board or ACT about your question.
Your instructors most likely do not know the timing of the test as well as you do, if you have been practicing. If you do not know the timing, you should make sure you do before you take the test.
For the SAT,
- Section 1 - Reading - 65 minutes
- Sections 2 - Writing and Language - 35 minutes
- Sections 3 - Math, No Calculator - 25 minutes
- Section 4 - Math, Calculator - 55 minutes
- Optional Essay - 50 minutes
For the ACT,
- Section 1 - English - 45 minutes
- Section 2 - Math - 60 minutes
- Section 3 - Reading - 35 minutes
- Section 4 - Science - 35 minutes
- Optional Writing - 40 minutes
Sometimes, the instructors will misread the time and give you more or less time than necessary. Read about the disaster that was the June 6th SAT. I highly recommend timing on your own watch. If your proctor messes up, speak up! If they won’t listen to you when you try to correct them, call the College Board or contact the ACT.
Your testing experience should be relatively noise free, other than page turning or pencils writing. If you are disturbed by any other noises, such as your proctor listening to music on their cellphone (happened to me) or watching a movie on their iPad (happened to my friend), you should speak up! This is your time to shine. Do not let anything get in your way.
If there are noises outside that are disturbing you such as kids screaming or an ice cream truck blaring music (both happened to me), speak up! Politely ask your proctor(s) if they can speak to the noisemakers! Here are the steps to take in that situation:
- Raise your hand.
- Wait for your proctor to arrive at your seat.
- Say, "I'm sorry, but that noise (from your headphones, iPad, or outside) is distracting me from focusing on the test. Is there any way you could turn it off / speak to the person making the noise? Thank you so much for your help and understanding! I really appreciate it!"
Who could say no to that? If a noise is distracting you, it is probably distracting others, so you are actually a hero, not a tattletale! If your proctor still refuses to help, talk to another proctor on your break or call the College Board or the ACT after the test.
You should receive three 5 minute long breaks during the test for the SAT. For the ACT, you should receive 2 breaks: one after section 2 and one after section 4. The ACT does not have a standard amount of time for the break as they told me when I asked. They said, "5-10 minutes, probably 10 minutes."
Regardless, do not let your proctor try to cut a break. It happened to me! If you want all three breaks, insist on taking all three. Speak to your proctor about it. If he or she disagrees, speak to another proctor about it or call the College Board after your test.
If you spot possible cheating the day of the test, tell your proctor and call the College Board or the ACT office (I know I've said it about a hundred times, but it is important!). The College Board has an entire office dedicated to test integrity. Your test is being curved based on everyone who sits for the test.
If they cheat, you suffer. Don’t let them get away with it.
You will regret it if you don't!
When You Should Speak Up and Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid of Speaking Up
You should speak up if anything severely disrupts your test. That includes everything I have mentioned as well as anything else that might happen to disrupt your test (alarms going off, students talking, etc.).
You should not be afraid to speak up. You NEED to speak up. As I said before, this test accounts for 30-50% of your college application. You deserve fair testing conditions so that you can rock the test. You should not be afraid of being labeled a whistleblower. The College Board or ACT will respect you for it and will investigate your concern. Also, they will most likely let you retest for free, so there is an upside to being a whistleblower!
Do not worry about your score being canceled if you complain. If you want your score and the disturbances were minimal, you will most likely have a delay in your scores being reported, but you will still receive your scores. If you feel the conditions were completely unfair, you probably want to retest anyways. If you complain about major issues (such as timing discrepancies), the College Board or ACT may cancel your score as well as the others at your test site, but they will most likely have you retest for free.
If you took the SAT and would like to contact the College Board to file a complaint about your test center, call this number (609) 771-7710 or email this address email@example.com, both of which are specifically for test center complaints. Don't be afraid of calling when they have an entire phone line and email dedicated to addressing your issue. They must get a ton of calls and emails.
If you took the SAT and would like to contact the College Board about cheating, call this number 609-406-5430 or this number 800-257-5123 (on test days only) or email this address firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, they have an entire office dedicated to test integrity. They want you to tell them about potential cheating.
If you took the ACT and would like to contact the ACT office to file a complaint about your test center or to report cheating, send an email to their office using this form. They have a form specifically for this purpose. Use it if you need it!
Know your rights!
- Read them a week before taking the test.
- Ask the College Board or the ACT office questions.
- On the day off, ask the proctor any new questions you have.
- For test timing,
- For the SAT, you get 25 minutes for the Essay, 25 minutes each for Sections 1-7, 20 minutes each for Section 8 and 9, and 10 minutes for Section 10.
- For the ACT, you get 45 minutes for English, 60 minutes for Math, 35 minutes each for Reading and Science, and 40 minutes for the Optional Essay (Writing Test).
- Time it on your own watch.
- If your proctor accidentally cuts time, speak up!
- For the SAT, You get three 5-minute breaks. Don’t get shortchanged!
- For the ACT, you get two 5-10 minute breaks!
- If any noise bothers you, ask your proctor to try to resolve it.
- Report any cheating to your proctor and the College Board or the ACT office.
Trying to raise your SAT score? Check out our ultimate study guide.
Not sure where you want to go to college? Check out our guide to finding your target school.
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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.