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!

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.

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

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.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Managing time with Standardized Tests

One way to manage time is to know your strengths, meaning if you are more proficient in reading and can read quickly and comprehend the material, do not waste time pondering that section because you are nervous. Anxiety will cause you to forget what you are certain of, so go at it with confidence. Another method is to read through and answer the questions you are sure of first and if it takes you longer than a minute to complete and you are somewhat unsure come back to it (mark it so that you do not have to search for it but go on to what you know) In the critical reading section I always suggests that students read through the questions first and then the passage because your subconcious will bring to mind the location of the information that you know is in a question so just mark that area and when you get to that question you will know where to look for the answer. Additionally, don't doodle, keep it moving when you are "stuck" skip and go on... In the writing section do not waste time outlining do a quick mindmap and to organize your ideas and begin writing.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

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

Go through and answer the questions that you know first. Then go back and spend a little more time on the questions that you don't know. On the SAT, if you can eliminate 2 answer choices but don't know the answer, Guess. Otherwise, omit. On the ACT, if you don't know the answer or can't come up with the answer, Guess.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

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

First rule of thumb is that you should spend about a minute on each question. If you go over a minute you are taking time away from future questions you need to answer. You should also not be skipping questions in the beginning of each section. The questions are in order from "easy" to "medium" to "hard" difficulty in each section (except the reading passages in the critical reading section...these questions are in order from easy to hard based on each passage) so if you are skipping the easy questions, you are going to have a really difficult time with the hard questions at the end of the section.