SAT Test Day Tips Needed for 12 Year Old Test Taker

Since my daughter will be so young when she takes the test, it will be sort of an intimidating experience being among high schoolers so I wanted to give her as much heads-up on the conditions to expect on test day as possible. Can anyone help out?

  1. Where on the test are you supposed to write your name? Is it the test booklet or on the bubble sheet? Also will she need to put her SSN or just name and address?
  2. Does the proctor specify page numbers to turn to when it's time to move on to a new section or does he or she just say "go to the math without calculator" section and you have to find where that is?
  3. Does the proctor tell you when you have 5 minutes left or give any time updates?
  4. Where do kids keep their stuff during the test? I know they can't have anything in the room but where do they keep snacks, sweaters, water etc.?
  5. How far in advance should kids arrive on test day?
  6. Can kids bring tissues to the testing room?
  7. Are they allowed to write in the testing booklet?


I’m going to say this in the most gentle way I can, but it feels a little bit like you’re jumping way ahead on this. Your daughter might be the smartest person in the world and still–why take SAT at age 12? Why potentially stress her out so much? Is it really necessary? There seems to be enough stress in the world and again, I gently suggest chilling out as a parent and letting her chill out as a child. She’s only 12. She is about to enter adolescence, notoriously the most stressful time in a young girl’s life.

So many kids suffer from anxiety / depression by the time they reach college. Even the most academically and emotionally sound kids sometimes end up with issues and then return home from even fancy colleges. They may take gap time or they may not go back to college. Or they may go to community college or a local college–I say this because I’ve seen it happen time and again.

My most caring advice would be to allow her a little space to care for her social-emotional growth and care. Doing that early helps her step strongly into college later.

More and more colleges don’t require SAT/ACT scores. Many top colleges do not require them.

Hi @Dustyfeathers - I do agree about the importanance of mental health. Rest assured that this is not a stressful experience. I’m not forcing her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She’s only taking the SAT at 12 because it’s required for a scholarship she’s interested in pursuing. They require everyone to take it because it helps assess exactly how advanced the kids are. It’s specifically for gifted kids.

She’s not doing drills or anything like that.

I hope that clarifies.

I am surprised that with so many seniors (and juniors) desperately seeking a seat for SAT or ACT that a 12 year old would be allowed to sit for one.
I personally wouldn’t want my 12 to take the seat of someone who truly needs one right now.

Well, to be fair, this 12 year old really needs a seat too, if a scholarship is in the balance!

First, it is highly likely (in my opinion) that there will be no SAT’s given this year, so you have some time to prepare. You might consider asking the scholarship entity what they will do in that case. I’d guess about 98% of all colleges have gone test optional b/c getting a test score has been impossible, not sure how the scholarship committee can expect a 12 year old to get one, when 17 year olds can’t.

I can only answer a few of your questions. In our experience, it depends where you take the test as to how far in advance to arrive. Personally I’d advise finding a testing site that is smaller, e.g. at a private school vs a huge public one. My kids have taken tests at both types of locations, and the huge public school had hundreds of kids lining up 45 minutes ahead of time, and parents didn’t go inside the building with them. I think that would have been intimidating for a young kid. In any case, I don’t think they open the doors until half an hour before the testing time (approx. – I’m relying on my memory here!). But there isn’t a long time to get inside and to your desk.

I think they keep their things on the desk or maybe on the floor next to them/under their chair. I believe tissues are allowed.

Can’t answer your other questions.

The Caroline D. Bradley scholarship for high school tuition, among others, requires 7th graders to take the SAT, so some of these comments are not warranted. Walk them back, people. When D took it at a local high school [must have been 2003 or 2004], they had the young ones like her in the library completely separate from the high school students.

@KellyJoe My kids took the SAT at 12. Kids who are applying for various things among them CTY gifted students and TIP as well as other scholarships need the test. Here’s my advice:

  1. She'll be younger than most kids there ( though my kids did see other kids that were 12/13), arrive early and stay with her in the hallway or whereever kids are waiting.
  2. Kids are very nervous and talking about it so that "fear" can rub off. Try to just talk to her and not let other kids talk directly to her or challenge her.
  3. Make sure she has sharpened pencils, calculator or not.
  4. For young kids they will have a slip and do not need a photo ID. She does not need her social security number.
  5. Make sure that whomever is checking her in knows that there are young kids who take the test. The last thing you want is someone who doesn't know a thing creating a problem for her.
  6. Breakfast.
  7. We did zero prep, worked out great for all my kids. Make sure she knows about how the test is scored ( is guessing worthwhile). We told our kids there was no downside, there wasn't. Also when you receive scores, you must check them against other kids her age not kids who took the test. There are tables online. Most kids who take the test early are gifted and so will score in the top 2-5% for their grade or even higher. A 700 at 12 is not a 700 at 16.
  8. Make sure she listens well. One of my kids missed 2 questions on a PSAT because of not turning a page.

Wish I could click Agree and Like and Helpful for @Happytimes2001 #6 but I had to choose one. I agree with everything in that post.

My apologies for being bratty in above post. Long afternoon and I shouldn’t project onto here.

S21 took it at age 12. There were 2-3 other kids his age also taking it.

Tips: Take a sweater (bc never know if it will be crazy cold in a room).

Son brought small drawstring bag with calculator, sharpened pencils, tissues, banana, water bottle, protein bar, beef jerky; and wore a very simple watch that I bought the day before bc we were told not all rooms have clocks.

Remind your D that there will be some things she has not seen before and not to panic. Totally okay. That taking it is great practice regardless of any score. The experience will always stay with her and can build upon it in future test sittings.

Good luck to your daughter.

@Happytimes2001 and @cinnamon1212 Thank you! Your advice is more helpful than you know. I’m hoping that the younger kids will in fact be able to sit separately. We’ll see I guess. I did try for a smaller school setting but I was unsuccessful as the spots were all taken. This will certainly be an interesting school year to say the least.

@123Mom123 No worries. Thanks for your advice as well.

And I forgot to add, bring snacks too . My oldest went to a small school setting and it worked well. Those would likely fill up early. If you are there early then I think you can pick your seat. Seats might be assigned by name ( not sure). In any case, you just want a spot for her with no distractions.

Thanks again @Happytimes2001!

My son took the SAT as a 12 year as well. It was for CTY qualification. He was a little intimidated when he walked in, but after the test starts, there is nothing to worry about.

Just keep encouraging your daughter, and praise no matter what the scores are. Good luck.

Mine also took it in middle school as part of Duke TIP program. Maybe this is unique to our area, but they put all those kids in a room separate from HS students. It was funny when one of mine took it again in HS at same place that they noticed the Duke TIP group room because of age.

A scholarship would add more stress. For mine, I was able to just say do your best - it doesn’t matter (or get reported for college).

@sgopal2 Thanks. I’m definitely trying to help her stay positive. Given the current circumstances there’s an added layer of stress and uncertainty but I’m trying to encourage her to just relax. This is important but not the end of the world :slight_smile:

@scmom12 I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the younger kids are separated. I’m not sure who I can call to find that information out in advance but I’m going to ask around and see.

@KellyJoe One of my kids also took the SAT in middle school in order to qualify for a gifted program. The younger kids were all in a separate room. The proctor will give them clear instructions, including how to bubble the cover sheet. This can take a good 20 minutes before they begin the actual test.

They will take each section separately and can’t go back once they’ve finished. At the mid point they will be allowed to have a break for bathroom and snack.

No cell phones or smart watches or anything with an alarm in the testing room.

We had our kid take a practice test before the real thing just to get a sense of the format and timing.

Good luck!

@mamaedefamilia Thanks for the info!

Just to add to what was posted above @ SAT or ACT taken in MS. Yes - for the Caroline Bradley scholarship, also Duke TIP application. Like some of you posted, there was a dedicated room for young test takers. Our test was taken at a high school. It was helpful to prepare my middle school student (at the time) for what to expect - so I totally understand your questions!

We had to wait in a long line to get to the registration table - my kiddo was the only one with “mom”. I think they wanted to see the middle school ID that matched the photo uploaded for ACT. Once greeted by registration, my student’s name was on a list for the dedicated classroom. HOWEVER, because it was so crowded at the testing site (a high school), the 6 or 7 young students were in a room where they had brought in 20 high school students. We did prepare our student in advance for realistic expectations about the test. For example, Duke TIP had specific cut-offs for math & reading on the ACT. Don’t remember @ science but did not expect that even counted.

It will be ok!

Thanks @Golfgr8.

I wonder if Caroline D. Bradley will be test optional next year. I don’t know how they will do it but testing is a mess already. I read somewhere that kids showed up to take the ACT after driving 3 hours only to find out the test was canceled. No prior warning was given. I seems the ACT is having more issues than SAT but undoubtedly this will be a rough testing season.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Anway, thanks for everyone’s feedback. It’s been helpful.

CDB ended up cancelling the requirement for the SAT last year because the last testing date was cancelled and many children couldn’t take it. We have FOUR cancellations in a row.

Many people take the test younger or the test proctor should know it. Since you have to register on paper, I’d recommend registering for multiple test dates in advance.

People put their water etc on the floor and sweaters in chairs. Buy a clear pencil pouch for the rest.

I’d suggest you print a test from the Khan practice area and have her practice so she isn’t worried about what to do. Have her do it on paper. It is an exact copy. You can plug the answers into the electronic version of the test if you want a score.