There’s a reason exams like the SAT and ACT are called standardized tests! Since standardized tests are created to help show schools where student test takers line up in relation to fellow students, all tests need to be the same so that scores are fair. Standardization includes many factors, from giving all students the same test booklets and pencils, to making sure everyone takes the test in the same amount of time. Proctors are part of that standardization equation.
Step in Time!
Proctors help the SAT run smoothly and fairly by administering the test according to strict College Board standards. Test administration involves reading an SAT-supplied script, but if you’ve taken the SAT before, you know that the proctor does so much more. Keeping track of time is one of the most important tasks the proctor manages on SAT Saturday, and an efficient proctor can make a huge difference in your test taking experience.
Since proctors control how much time you spend on each section of the SAT, plus how long you get for breaks, proctor performance is loosely correlated to your score. If your proctor accidentally gave your room too much or too little time for a section, especially if you’re running close on time, that just might affect your score. Though College Board provides very specific instructions for how long scheduled breaks should last, there’s always the chance that human error might shave some time off of, or add a few moments to, your breaks.
Most proctors won’t have any issues with timing, but within each room, proctor style varies. Some proctors choose to call out warning times (“You have five minutes remaining!”) while others stay quiet to let students focus until “Pencils down!” Unfortunately, whichever style you prefer, you won’t get to choose, so it’s best to be prepared for any proctor.
Stick to the Script
Of course, though proctor style varies, the SAT works hard to ensure standardization by giving each proctor the same script. If you’ve taken standardized tests before, you can probably recite the script yourself! It’s pretty monotonous and well, boring, but nobody ever said the SAT was trying to win an Oscar for drama. A big part of the proctor’s job of keeping the SAT fair is to stick to the script so that all students across the nation are given the same instructions, and same fair opportunity to take the test.
If you’ve ever heard any SAT horror stories, you might know that some proctors don’t always stick to the script, which is absolutely uncool. The best way to know whether the proctor is properly following instructions is to know the instructions yourself! That’s just one reason practice SAT tests can be so helpful. Check out these Magoosh blogs to brush up on SAT sections, timing, and rules so you know exactly what to listen for on test day. If you realize that your proctor is giving out incorrect information or misreading the instructions, you can let College Board know!
Proctor to the Rescue
Aside from managing time and delivering instructions, proctors also guard against cheating and ensure fairness by checking and distributing test materials like pencils and calculators, and of course, keeping an eye open for old fashioned cheating. Even before the test begins, proctors are entrusted with exam booklets and answer sheets to make sure the tests are secure. Most proctors have administered tests many times and are well practiced in catching cheaters. The proctor is the guardian for your SAT!
Since proctors aren’t superhuman, mistakes sometimes happen. Make sure you are prepared for your test day the best you can!
- Proctors can write down the wrong time on the board, give longer or shorter breaks than required by College Board, or forget to call out remaining time. Bring your own watch to keep time–they can make time mistakes and if you notice an error, speak up!
- If you should forget a pencil or yours breaks, proctors usually have extras on hand. But it’s better to bring plenty of backup for yourself!
- If you realize your proctor is not following instructions properly, let a supervisor and the College Board know.
Proctoring is an important job, but it’s not exactly glamorous. Your test proctor seems like a small factor but can make all the difference in a comfortable test taking experience. Fortunately — or unfortunately, depending on how well you get along with your teachers 😉 — proctors are often your everyday faculty members. You might even end up in a classroom with your favorite English teacher! Even though test proctors seem like they belong to a super exclusive club of your favorite teachers, librarians, and school administrators, they’re just regular folks!
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About Emily Faison
An avid reader and art enthusiast, Emily has degrees in English from Florida State University and Southeastern University. When she's not editing web content for a local magazine, you’ll probably find her catching up on her Netflix queue or reading a novel with a fresh cup of coffee at a local cafe.
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