SAT Tip: Five Test-Day Pacing Strategies

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This tip on improving your SAT score was provided by Vivian Kerr at Veritas Prep.

Test Day lingering on the horizon? Here’s a quick reminder how to move efficiently and confidently through the exam without breaking a sweat.

Remember where you are within each section. The SAT is really 10 mini-tests. Since the section lengths vary from 10 minutes to 25 minutes, you’ll need to check in with your watch or classroom clock against your remaining questions to make sure you’re moving at a strong pace.

Don’t let one tough math question bog you down. Math questions go from easy to hard within each SAT section, meaning they will get more difficult (and take more time) as you go. Occasionally, you might see a very challenging medium-level SAT question in the middle or toward the end of the section. Remember that you still have to get to the hard questions at the end. Sometimes it’s just not worth spending two to three minutes getting it correct. If it involves too much algebra, and you can’t see a simpler way in, circle it and skip it. You can always come back to it if you have more time at the end.

Move quickly through Sentence Completion questions. The layout of the SAT Reading sections starts with Sentence Completion test questions and then moves on to the SAT Reading Comprehension. You will absolutely want to spend the bulk of your time on Reading Comprehension, so move confidently through the Sentence Completions. Don’t rush, but just know that if you spend too much time on them, you risk leaving more Reading questions blank. You will definitely want to practice this balancing act by doing timed Reading sections before test day.

Avoid reading the entire paragraph for Improving Paragraphs questions. Most Improving Paragraphs questions ask only about a specific sentence, and they’re much more like Improving Sentence test questions than Reading passages. Scan the questions for each passage (there should only be a few). Unless they ask about the paragraph as a whole, don’t waste valuable time reading the entire thing.

Treat every section as if it counts. We know that the SAT contains an experimental section, where new questions are tested before they appear on the official test, but there is no reason you should waste valuable test time trying to guess which one it is. The questions in the experimental section will not be markedly different from the other sections, except that your answers do not count toward your final score. Calmly and methodically work through all SAT sections as if they are all part of your final score.

Use the practice tests you’ve taken before Test Day to learn which questions are your strengths and attack them first. Get as many points as you can, skip the hard ones, and come back to them on a “second pass.” Remember that within each section on Test Day, you can answer the questions in any order.

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