What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

ACT/SAT Prep

Our counselors answered:

What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

Mark Smith

What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

Don’t be afraid to skip questions and return to them later. If you're having trouble, move on and come back once you've tackled the rest of the section. Believe me, we've all been there: You see a tough question, freeze up, and panic. But remember, you have only 25 minutes for the longer sections, and 20 and 10 for the shorter ones. So, if you do get stuck on a question, is it a good idea to spend five valuable minutes trying to figure out what to do? Probably not. Instead, skip the question, and return if you have time. Remember, each question is worth the same number of points, so no single question is so important that it merits five minutes of your time.

Ronald Smith

What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

Take notes on Reading Comprehension passages. You’re allowed to write in your booklet for a reason. Feel free to underline key sentences and jot down main ideas. It might seem like a waste of time, but if you take notes in such a way that you can easily reference key points in the passage, it may actually end up saving you time. How? Well, when a question asks about a particular point, but does not tell you exactly where to look in the passage, what will happen if you haven't taken notes? Right—you'll waste time rereading a good portion of the passage. Try out different strategies and take the time to develop a note-taking strategy that works for you. You’ll be grateful for it on test day!

Tammy Smith

What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

Before writing your essay, take notes! Even though you have only 25 minutes to write, you'd be surprised how much taking a couple minutes to outline your essay can help in the long run. Now of course, we're not talking a super-neat outline that you'd turn in for a project. It only has to be legible to you. The test-makers know you have only 25 minutes to write the essay, so they are not expecting something that is final-draft quality. Essays that earn the highest possible score may still have mistakes or style problems, but they should have a strong general structure. Taking a minute to outline your thesis and supporting points will help big-time in this regard.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

There are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests. I caution my students to not ever get too caught up on any one question; that tends to cause the student to over-think and perhaps make a mistake. After all, no question is worth more credit than another. The management of time is crucial in Critical Reading sections. Students can learn ways to garner the main idea of the passage and assign a higher priority to some questions over others (if they are taking the SAT with its guessing penalty). With math, students know their stronger areas from their weaker areas. For the SAT's Critical Writing and ACT's English section, students can often tell the answer by looking at the choices first. Finally, for the essay, students should have their thesis and examples on paper before writing longhand.

Lisa Hatch
Independent College Counselor College Primers

Unleash the Power of POE

Sometimes the simplest techniques are the most effective. For instance, one of the best ways to up your SAT or ACT score is to actively engage in POE, or Process of Elimination. It’s especially helpful for the reading and English sections. The SAT blasts you with five answer choice possibilities. At first, it seems overwhelming. Take control of the situation by crossing out answer choices you know are wrong, especially those that are off-topic. That’s right….mark through with your pencil every answer choice that’s obviously wrong. Soon you’ll realize that you’re really only choosing between two possible answer choices, not among five, and often you’ll mark your way down to the best answer right away. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can eliminate answer choices in your head. It doesn’t work. Cross them out with your pencil, and you’ll be surprised how the right answer seems to jump right out at you.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

Test Like Goldilocks – Not Too Fast, Not Too Slow… Just Right

I teach my students that a steady test-taking pace is essential to standardized test success. Working too fast often results in careless errors. Extra points are not awarded for finishing first, so slow down so you don’t misread questions or make calculation mistakes. On the other hand, working too slowly can be detrimental. Even if you are getting every question correct, you may not complete enough questions to earn the score you want. Practice a number of timed test sections to determine the right question-answering speed for you. Finally, bring a watch or timer to the actual test to keep an eye on the clock.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

Practice with timing drills! Take a full section of whichever test you are preparing for. Time yourself. If you complete the section in time, try it for the rest of the test. If you ran out of time. Mark exactly where you were when the time ran out and calculate the number of minutes you spent per question. THEN calculate the average number of minutes you SHOULD be spending per question (divide the total time given for each section by the number of questions in the section), and see how far off you are. Then work on short timing drills until you can close the gap. Some other tips are skimming passages or reading only topic sentences and looking for key words. In the math sections: if a problem is too hard and taking too long, skip it! Move on to easier questions and easier points!

Helen Cella

What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

Watch the clock. Answer the questions at the beginning first

Brian D. Crisp
Founder and President Crisp Consulting + Coaching; Burton College Tours

Time Can Give You Time

Like most of life, the key challenge is time. Building speed while maintaining accuracy is critical. Mastering a few simple time-saving techniques and simple practice can significantly increase your test-taking efficiency. Once these tools are in place, test anxiety surrounding the standardized tests can give way to the confidence needed to boost your over all score. Memorize the directions. Time is money or, in the case of the SAT, time is points. The directions to each section never change. Memorizing the directions frees time that could be spent on actual test taking. Jump Around. Within each section you are allowed to jump around. Answer the easiest questions first. If you encounter a difficult question, circle it in your test booklet and skip it. Return to the difficult questions once you’ve answer the questions you know first. This keeps your primary as it should be: Acquiring points! Five at a time. Transfer your answers to the answer sheet after every five questions. You will avoid costly grid mistakes and save time. Take a dry run. The College Board offers myriad ways to practice questions for the PSAT and SAT. Question of the Day can be sent to you e-mail or as an app for your iPhone. In addition, a full-length practice test can be taken at www.collegeboard.com/practice/

Nicholas Umphrey

Pacing yourself during the test.

In short, if you are well prepared for the test, watching the clock will not be a problem. You will have plenty of time to complete each test section. Even if you leave a couple of question blank, the SAT will not count these with the same weight they would as if you answered the same questions incorrectly. 25 minutes is usually plenty of time based on the times I have looked around the room while proctering a test.