In a way, the SAT and ACT test speed more than knowledge. But knowledge matters more than speed, and speed will follow knowledge with practice.
If you’ve got a pretty good grasp of the content on the SAT or ACT, though, and you’re looking to increase your test-taking speed, here are a few helpful tricks.
Looking to increase your speed on the SAT or ACT?
1) Bubble answers one page at a time.
Most students take about three seconds to flip between the test booklet and the answer sheet, bubble in their response, then flip back to the test booklet. Over time, this adds up—sometimes to the tune of 8 wasted minutes. When you finish a page, flip to the answer sheet and bubble answers for that page. Later, if you’re pressed for time on the last page of a section, you can bubble answers one at a time. Also, don’t obsess over bubbling the entire circle in neatly. It’s fine if your bubbles aren’t perfect, despite what the answer documents claim.
2) Leave hard questions blank and return to them
Obviously, you want to pick up the easy and medium points first. If you’re not aiming for a perfect score, you have leeway with how many questions you can safely leave blank. Study the score conversion charts for your test and determine approximately how many “skips” you’re allowed.
3) Take a lot of practice tests
This should go without saying. The more you grow accustomed to the testing environment, with its added pressures of time and performance anxiety, your speed is sure to increase. Looking for a free SAT or ACT practice test in Austin, Texas? We offer them every Saturday. Drop us a line at [email protected] and we’ll get you set up.
4) Skim the shorter reading passages
Often questions on short passages are only testing you for the main idea or argument of the passage. There’s no need to obsess over every detail.
5) Read the questions first on reading passages, then work backwards.
This strategy isn’t for everyone, so try it out on a practice test—not the real thing. If you find yourself doing noticeably worse, switch back to the traditional way of reading the passage first and then answering the questions. But if you, like me, are able to easily locate key words in a passage and scrutinize the surrounding area for context, start with the questions. You might just find your score jump up a significant amount.
6) Don’t read the directions
Having taken several practice tests, you should know them. Also, for the essay, read nothing but the specific question you’re being asked.
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