Orange County School of the Arts

Facing an unfair PSAT/SAT Proctor: know your rights


As a teenager, it is hard to tell adults that they are in the wrong.

But if you know your rights, you can stand up for yourself and the people around you. This skill will take you far in life—support any argument with solid evidence and adults will stare at you, simply flabbergasted at your audacity and knowledge, and, quite frankly, the fact that you are right.

What am I talking about? Today, I took the PSAT and faced questions about cookies, raising wolf-pups, and fish farming. The bizarre topics, I could deal with–those were the least of my problems.

Not only did our proctor arrive late to school (thankfully, our counselors covered for her until she arrived), but she did all of the following:

  1. She didn’t write down the start and end time for any of the sections on the board.
  2. For the first section she only looked at the clock and estimated start and finish time. She announced we had 5 minutes left when in actuality we had 13 minutes left according to a watch I have, which counts down and shows the exact amount of time we have left. I told her this, and she kept insisting that she was right. She did not clarify how much time we had left and just let us continue. Then, when my watch showed we had three minutes left, she said time was up. Classmates who had watches also noticed she shaved off time.
  3. A similar situation arose when she under timed our second section. This time, when I tried to tell her that, she accused me in front of the class, “You’re being a disturbance.”
  4. Her phone went off twice during testing period.

According to CollegeBoard’s Advising and Admission Handbook for the SAT, every student has the right to “a standardized, fair, and equitable opportunity to demonstrate college readiness and to prevent anyone from gaining an unfair advantage on SAT tests.”

In order to prepare for any situation that might arise regarding time, bring your own watch. Write down the starting time for further evidence. Personally, I prefer using a watch with a countdown that keeps track of how much time has elapsed and how much time is left. That way, I am able to specifically tell the proctor that there are 13 minutes left.

Now, as for knowing your rights:

The link above is the Supervisor’s Manual PSAT/NMSQT from CollegeBoard, detailing the exact standards on testing room procedures. This particular document is specific to the PSAT, but the rules should follow in general:


If your proctor cuts your time short, he or she needs to “Permit students to make up time on an undertimed section.”

If your proctor gives you too much time on one section, he or she must “Give the full number of minutes on all the other sections.” Your proctor cannot cut back time on section 2 if he or she gave you too much time on section 1.
Your proctor is required to “enter the start and stop times as you begin each section; post the times for students to see.” Remind your proctor to write the start and finish time up on the board.


Your testing room should have an easily visible clock. If not, the proctor should “announce the time remaining for each test section at regular intervals to help students pace themselves.”


The standards also include directions for the proctor: “Do not read, grade papers, work on a computer, talk on a phone, or do any other task unrelated to the test administration.” The proctor asks students to silence all cellphones. The same rule applies to them.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is this: you have to muster the courage to stand up for yourself. It was certainly intimidating, to say the least, to stand up for my rights against a proctor who could care less about following proper procedure. Sure, the proctor might get a little huffy, but you’ll have won the allegiance of everyone in the class by defending your opportunity to test fairly. Adults are not always right. Afterwards, I emailed my counselors and they said they would talk with the proctor so these mistakes wouldn’t happen again in the future. If your testing environment was truly disastrous, you can report it to CollegeBoard for a potential retest.

It is hard, but now you know the facts to support your argument. Tell your proctor to check their Supervisor’s Manual. Fight for yourself and your classmates’ right, with all due respect. You worked hard to prepare for this test—don’t let one proctor deter you from achieving excellence.

Good luck to everyone taking the PSAT on October 28.