When it comes to preparation for the SAT Math and the ACT Math and Science, timed practice is crucial. Unfortunately, most students don’t get nearly enough pacing practice before test day! When getting ready for the these tests, consider the following tips so that you don’t fall behind the clock!
1. On section 3 of the SAT Math (the Non-Calculator section), students have an average of a minute and fifteen seconds per question. On section 4 (the Calculator section), students will have a minute and a half per question.
That isn’t a lot of time!
Remember: TWO minutes is TOO much! A student who has spent two minutes on a question is a student that needs to move ahead. Ideally, on the first pass of a section, students shouldn’t spend more than one minute per question. Also, they should decide within the first 15-20 seconds of reading a problem whether or not they want to commit to that question. If they don’t like it, move ahead!
Exercise: If you don’t have time to practice a full section in a timed setting, break a section down into clusters of questions. However many questions there are, give yourself that many minutes to finish them. If you can answer/guess on all the questions before time is up, your pacing should be good for test day. If you’re struggling to finish, you need to improve your pacing. Either be more willing to skip around, or practice identifying the sorts of questions that slow you down. Most importantly, keep practicing!
2. On the ACT Math, students have 60 minutes to answer 60 questions! This is even less time per question than the SAT!
Exercise: To practice ACT Math timing, break a section into clusters of 10 questions, and practice finishing these clusters in the allotted time. Because the problems get progressively harder, you’ll need to work swiftly early in the section to give yourself time for the last ten questions. Listed below are the ideal times for each group of ten questions:
1-10: 5-7 minutes
11-20: 5-8 minutes
21-30: 6-8 minutes
31-40: 8-10 minutes
41-50: 8-10 minutes
51-60: 13-15 minutes
If your times are running over the allotted time in any of these clusters, it’s time to rethink your pacing strategy. Remember, you’re not rewarded for answering the questions in order! Skip around questions that you don’t like!
3. On the ACT Science, students have an average of 52.5 seconds per question. Rather than worry about that little fact, however, students should focus on the problem that they’ll have less than a minute per question.
Exercise: When practicing the ACT Science, break the section down into its seven passages. For each passage:
A: Count the number of
B: Subtract 1 from this
C: Give yourself a time
For example, a passage of six questions should take no longer than five minutes. If this time limit is exceeded, it’s time to move ahead and do something else!
If you follow this pacing strategy to the letter, you will *always* have at least two minutes left on any ACT Science test! Be sure to use that remaining time to go back and check your work, or figure out those last few problems that stumped you earlier.
I hope these tips will help you get ready for your test! Remember, reading about a timing strategy is useless without practice, so sit down and start cranking out those exercises!