So, you’ve taken the SAT and you weren’t able to finish under time. You had to guess on those questions you didn’t make it to, and those lost points haunt you still. Well, good news, here’s
Also, make sure to check if extra time is available to you. If you qualify for extra time, you should take it! If you have a visual impairment, learning disorder, or a motor disorder, do not be afraid of applying for extra time! This includes conditions like dysgraphia and ADHD. Many people have conditions that make standardized testing difficult, and you are under no obligation to take the SAT in Extra Hard Mode with a condition.
1. Break Down The Sections
First, look at the section of the test you’re having the most trouble finishing on time. Then, divide that section into more manageable pieces. You might divide up the grammar and reading sections into passages or the math into the multiple choice and free answer. This will help you bite off bite sized chunks and clearly see what you struggle with time-wise.
Here’s how the chunks break down.
You’ve got 65 minutes on the reading section, and there are five passages in the reading section- which means you want to aim for twelve minutes on each reading passage to give yourself breathing room to go back and check over your answers.
You have 35 minutes for the grammar section, and there are four passages- so you want to aim to complete each passage in about eight and a half minutes.
The math questions are a little harder to give a general timescale for, as the questions get increasingly tricky. The no calculator section is 25 minutes long and has 20 questions, so if you’re spending too much more than a minute on each question, especially before the halfway mark, you need to move on. The calculator section gives you 55 minutes to finish 38 questions, which comes to a little less than a minute and a half per question on average. There are going to be math questions that take you seconds, and a couple that take you quite a bit longer. Keep an eye on your average, and adjust for how far you are into the test. (Remember! The problems get trickier as you go on!)
2. Start by Focusing on Quality Rather Than Quantity
You could get done with the SAT in a couple minutes if you simply bubbled in answers randomly, but would you get the score you want? Definitely not. You don’t just want to be fast, you want to be fast and accurate. Make sure you can get a decent score when you aren’t racing against the clock. The goal isn’t to rush, it’s to go through the answering process more swiftly and efficiently. Rushing might feel quicker, but often takes more energy while shaving off only a couple seconds. Trying to hit a time limit at the same time as trying to improve understanding of the test will make your improvement in both areas suffer.
3. Practice Without a Timer
Now that you’ve gotten your basic system set up, you need to actually put in the work. Sit down in your study area, and practice the passages. Notice what kind of passages and questions give you trouble. What questions do you spend a lot of time on? Do you tend to get stuck or stall out at any points? Make note of these details, and try and smooth them out. This isn’t the real test yet, what you’re trying to do is practice and tweak your question-answering process until it feels efficient and natural.
4. Have Confidence
Often, the thing that costs you the most confidence is doubting yourself. You hesitate, wondering if the problems you’d just solved were really correct, and waste time worrying about it. You get stuck between two answers and you spend minutes second-guessing yourself. If you’re really uncertain about a problem, put a star by it, circle the answer that looks the best, and come back to it if you have time. Being able to move on helps you get to problems you know you can get right, boosting your score in the end.
Afterwards, don’t beat yourself up too hard about missed questions or how you did. To avoid burnout, you want to come out of each section feeling okay about yourself. If you stretch yourself to the absolute limit on the reading section and are punishing yourself for a question you had to guess on, you’ll go into the remaining three sections nervous and exhausted, which is a terrible state of mind to test in!
5. Start Timing yourself
Once you feel good about your score and untimed performance, start timing yourself by simply setting a stopwatch to see how long it takes you to complete a section. Don’t rush, just move quickly and don’t let yourself get stuck at one point for too long. Practice under a time limit to keep your cool when the real test comes.
6. Monitor and Review
Keep practicing, and keep timing. The more you practice, the more smoothly and efficiently you’ll answer the SAT questions. Don’t get too caught up in any individual time, just aim for a little better and with less stress. The better you know the test, the more confident you’ll be on testing day.
That’s it! We hope you now have the tools to finish the SAT under time! If you want more SAT and ACT prep advice sure to join our mailing list for a free 27-item checklist and 30-day free SAT email course.