May 4, 2019

Reviews of SAT and ACT Test Centers: East Bay

Update: I've added a review of Skyline High School.

I'm in the process of trying out all of the test centers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Las Lomas High School

1460 S Main St, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
SAT Test Center #05870
Evaluation Date: October 6, 2018

Parking (0.5/1 point): Sufficient
There was parking when I arrived at 7:35 (10 minutes early), but I don't know if the students who showed up later were all able to find spots.

Vending Machines (1/1 point): Drinks AND snacks

Waiting area (2/1 point): Very convenient!
Instead of making everyone wait in one huge line to get into the campus, these proctors posted a list matching each student with her testing room. They didn't check our IDs until we go to the individual classroom doors, so the check-in process was quick and efficient.

Proctors were stationed at several places around the school to help with directions so that we wouldn't have to find the room numbers ourselves. The room I was in even had a box of pencils available for students who forgot to bring their own.

Bathrooms (1/1 point): Easy to find

Wall Clock (1/1 points): Yes
The clock was mounted on the wall at the front of the classroom.

Desk type (1/2 points): Single seat with a 1' x 1' desk area attached

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate

Distractions (2/2 points): Minimal
The floors were carpeted. The proctor had a snack partway through the test but was fairly inconspicuous about it.

Miramonte High School

750 Moraga Way, Orinda, CA 94563
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
SAT Test Center #05550
Evaluation Date: March 10, 2018

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful
There was plenty of parking, but I had to drive through through several miles of two-lane roads to get to Miramonte from Highway 24. Drive by this center before your test date so you can account for things that may go wrong.

Vending Machines (1/1 point): Drinks AND snacks

Waiting area (2/1 point): Very convenient!
Instead of making everyone wait in one huge line to get into the campus, these proctors posted a list matching each student with her testing room. They didn't check our IDs until we go to the individual classroom doors, so the check-in process was quick and efficient. Heads up: the list was posted on a pole near the front of the school using two 8.5"x11" sheets of paper. It was inconspicuous enough that I missed it and had to circle back when I realized I didn't know which classroom to go to.

Bathrooms (0.5/1 point): Hard to find
The Miramonte campus has a lot of bathrooms, but most of them were locked. There were no signs leading to the bathrooms and nothing posted indicating which ones were unlocked.

Wall Clock (1/1 points): Yes
The clock was mounted on the wall at the front of the classroom.

Desk type (1/2 points): Single seat with a 1' x 1' desk area attached

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate

Distractions (1/2 points): Average
There was no carpet on the floor to soak up noise, and once, during the Critical Reading section, I heard teachers talking to each other in the hallway.

Acalanes High School

1200 Pleasant Hill Rd, Lafayette, CA 94549
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
SAT Test Center #05349
Evaluation Date: October 7, 2017

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful
There was plenty of parking, and the school is only a couple of blocks from the freeway.

Vending Machines (0/1 point): None!

Waiting area (2/1 point): Very convenient!
Instead of making everyone wait in one huge line to get into the campus, these proctors posted a list matching each student with her testing room. They didn't check our IDs until we go to the individual classroom doors, so the check-in process was quick and efficient.

Bathrooms (1/1 point): Easy to find

Wall Clock (0/1 points)
There was a wall clock at the front of the classroom, but the proctor wouldn't let me use a wristwatch on my desk as a timing device, even though the College Board's Web site states that watches are allowed. The proctor gave the five-minute warning TEN minutes before the end of one of the test sections, an error he corrected within a few seconds. He also ended the test two minutes before the wall clock matched the finish time on written on the board. It's possible that the wall clock didn't match the proctor's watch, but because he didn't allow students to use watches, it's impossible to know.

Desk type (1/2 points): Single seat with a 1' x 1' desk area attached

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate

Distractions (1/2 points): Average
I took the SAT in a chemistry classroom, which didn't have carpet on the floor to soak up noise. Other classrooms may not be set up in the same way.

Campolindo High School

300 Moraga Rd., Moraga, CA 94556

Overall Rating: 8.5/10
SAT Test Center #05481
Evaluation Date: May 6, 2017

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful
There was plenty of parking, but I had to drive through downtown Moraga and then uphill on a two-lane road for several miles to get to Campolindo from Highway 24. Drive by this center before your test date so you can account for things that may go wrong.

Vending Machines (0/1 point): None!

Waiting area (2/1 point): Very convenient!
Instead of making everyone wait in one huge line to get into the campus, these proctors posted a list matching each student with her testing room. They didn't check our IDs until we go to the individual classroom doors, so the check-in process was quick and efficient. They even allowed us to enter the testing rooms at 7:35, a full ten minutes before they were required to!

Bathrooms (0.5/1 point): Hard to find
I walked all over the campus and didn't see where the men's bathroom was. I also had a hard time finding my way back to the main parking lot after the test was over and had to ask a proctor to help me.

Wall Clock (1/1 points): Yes
The clock was mounted on the wall at the front of the classroom.

Desk type (1/2 points): Single seat with a 1' x 1' desk area attached

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate
It was a cold morning for late spring (fifty degrees), and I had to keep both of my sweatshirts on for the entire testing period. Still, the temperature wasn't cold enough to make me shiver, and I wouldn't expect a school to heat classrooms in May.

Distractions (2/2 points): Minimal
The floors were carpeted. The testing room was so quiet that when a student coughed, I actually noticed the difference.

Antioch High School

700 West 18th Street, Antioch, CA 94509

Overall Rating: 11.5/10
ACT Test Center #183310
(This is also an SAT test center.)
Evaluation Date: December 10, 2016

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful

Vending Machines (0.5/1 point): Drinks only (no snacks)

Waiting area (1/1 point): Inside
The proctors put desks in front of the building and efficiently checked IDs and admission tickets at the double doors. Students who arrived on time could get into their classrooms almost immediately and relax while the latecomers straggled in.

Bathrooms (1/1 point): Adequate and clean

Wall Clock (2/1 points): Digital!
The clock was easy to read, so it gets extra credit. It was placed a bit awkwardly at the side of the room instead of the front.

Desk type (3/2 points): Large, counter-style desks with students spaced four feet apart
A counter-style desk gives you plenty of room to spread your papers out. It's worth driving half an hour to get a work space like that!

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate
The strategy of dressing in layers definitely worked at this test center. I wore a jacket for the first few minutes of the test and removed it partway through the test.

Distractions (2/2 points): Minimal
The large desks made it less necessary to shuffle papers around, and most of the remaining stray noises were absorbed by the carpeting.

Pittsburg High School

1750 Harbor St, Pittsburg, CA 94565

Overall Rating: 8.5/10
SAT Test Center #05043
Evaluation Date: March 9, 2019

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful
Park in front (the Harbor Street side) if you can, as you may find the back entrace to be locked if walk in from the School St. parking lot.

Vending Machines (0/1 point): None!

Waiting area (1/1 point): Inside
The proctors put four desks in lobby and efficiently checked IDs and admission tickets without making students wait in a huge line. Students who arrived on time could get into their classrooms almost immediately and relax while the latecomers straggled in.

Bathrooms (1/1 point): Adequate and clean

Wall Clock (0.5/1 points): An analog clock at the BACK of the room
You'd have to crane your neck to see the wall clock if you forget to bring your own timing device.

Desk type (2/2 points): Larger-than-average desks
The desks at this school are far from state-of-the-art, but their sheer size earns full credit.

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate
The temperature was a bit below average, but because students weren't made to wait outside (and actually were made to stay in the hallways instead of going outside during break), things worked out okay for students who dressed in layers.

Distractions (2/2 points): Minimal
Carpeted floors helped absorb noise, but the walls were still noticeably thin when people in the hallway were talking. At least one proctor was always in the hallway during breaks.

Some of the students clearly weren't prepared to take the SAT when I was at this test center, but the proctors handled the situation admirably and patiently explained both the directions and why certain restrictions (such as not allowing water bottles on desks) were necessary. One of the proctors was fairly knowledgeable about testing procedures and may have been a College Board employee.

Clayton Valley Charter High School

1101 Alberta Way, Concord, CA 94521

Overall Rating: 7/10
SAT Test Center: 05131
Evaluation Date: October 1, 2016

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful

Vending Machines (0.5/1 point): Drinks only (no snacks)

Waiting area (0.5/1 point): Inside
The proctors put desks in front of the building and efficiently checked IDs and admission tickets at the double doors. Students who arrived on time could get into the hallways almost immediately. However, we got into our classroom, the desks were arranged in groups of four. We had to move them into straight rows and move them back after we were finished. Since the SAT has assigned seating, we didn't get situated until all the desks had been moved so that the proctor could visualize where to seat us.

Bathrooms (1/1 point): Adequate and clean

Wall Clock (1/1 point): Yes

Desk type (1/2 points): Single seat with a 1' x 1' desk area attached

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate
The strategy of dressing in layers definitely worked at this test center. I wore a jacket for the first few minutes of the test and removed it partway through the test.

Distractions (1/2 points): Average
The floor was made of commercial tile and could have reflected noise, but it didn't create a major problem.


Ygnacio Valley High School

755 Oak Grove Road, Concord, CA 94518

Overall Rating: 3/10
SAT Test Center #05500
Evaluation Date: January 21, 2017

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful

Vending Machines (0/1 point): None

Waiting area (0/1 point): Outside
Despite the SAT admission ticket's claim that all test centers open at 7:45, students were not allowed into this center's hallways until exactly 8:00 A.M. They had to wait outside in the cold.

Bathrooms (0/1 point): Crowded
A line of students snaked into each bathroom during the 10-minute break between SAT sections. A faint sewage-like smell loitered in the hallways.

Wall Clock (1/1 point): Yes

Desk type (1/2 points): Single seat with a 1' x 1' desk area attached

Temperature (0/1 point): Very cold
After waiting outside until 8:00 A.M., students had to take the test in rooms without heat. The furnace did work for a couple of minutes, but it was very loud, and someone turned it off.

Distractions (0/2 points): Severe
Proctors' voices were able to pass through the walls from one classroom to another. The floors, paved with commercial tile, reflected and amplified small sounds. Honking geese strutted outside the windows. One of them actually walked into Mordor an open hallway and had to be chased away during the test.


Skyline High School

12250 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619

Overall Rating: 5/10
SAT Test Center #05535
Evaluation Date: May 4, 2019

Parking (1/1 point): Plentiful

Vending Machines (0/1 point): None

Waiting area (1/1 point): Convenient but long wait
Instead of making everyone wait in one huge line to get into the campus, these proctors posted a list matching each student with her testing room. They didn't check our IDs until we go to the individual classroom doors.

However, instead of letting us into the classrooms at the scheduled time (7:45), we had to wait in the hallways an extra fifteen minutes until 8:00 A.M.

Bathrooms (0/1 point): Hard to find

Wall Clock (1/1 point): Yes

Desk type (2/2 points): Single seat with a large 2' x 1.5' desk area attached

Temperature (1/1 point): Adequate

Distractions (-1/2 points): Very severe
The proctor didn't collect our cell phones, which left open the risk that a someone's phone would buzz and create a distraction for everyone. She kept talking and giving instructions after time had begun and used her own phone's alarm as a reminder for when ten minutes were left. She even called the time incorrectly: "five minutes left" instead of ten. There was also a loud chime outside that rang every couple of minutes; it was designed to create a sound whenever particulate pollutants (dust or soot) were detected in the air.

The floors were not carpeted, which made the extraneous sounds harder to ignore.

College Park High School

201 Viking Drive, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

I tried to sign up for this center a few days before the registration deadline for the December 2016 ACT, but it was already fully booked. If you want to test here, you may need to sign up earlier than normal.

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