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SAT Time Management Tips. - SAT CHAMP

The SAT is a standardized test that takes place under strict time constraints ensuring the test experience is universal, giving no unfair advantage to any candidate. The indispensable parts of the SAT prep include Content Knowledge, Test Strategy, and Time Management. It is not uncommon for students to run out of time during their SAT day. So, one might have a sound content knowledge, but not applying effective time management on the test day forfeits your chances to obtain your target score. This article discusses in detail about Time Management.

Time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Failing to manage the time destroys your effectiveness and induces stress, finally leading to much lower scores one had targeted. The SAT is a 247 minutes long marathon in case you are opting for the optional essay, including the three breaks of total 17 minutes. Always remember, all questions carry the same weightage, whether be it too easy or too hard. So, as a thumb rule, one should not get stuck on a particular question during the entire duration of the test. These types of questions are intentionally put in the test to break your momentum and identify your decision making capability whether to get stuck on solving that question or move on. In any case, if you are able to finish the section ahead of the allocated time, you can always come back and try answering the question again with no fear of the questions left unanswered in any section.

Management of time on the actual test day can really be the most determining factor whether your score is better or worse than the average score obtained in your mock tests during your SAT prep phase. Content knowledge is a fixed parameter on the test day as that is the information already residing in your brain. The only thing that is variable is application of time management. So, that’s the only factor which will be creating a difference between your mock scores and actual test score. No matter how hard one tries to simulate the real test environment while giving his mocks or practice tests, the scenario while actually writing the SAT can’t be fully replicated. The anxiety and stress levels experienced on the test day is very different when compared to the mocks you gave earlier during your prep phase.

Creating benchmarks within each section can be very helpful to track your pace on the SAT. Many students keep on looking at the timer far more than actually required. This leads to focus shift on a regular basis resulting in loss of rhythm and concentration during the test. Moreover, some questions actually need more time to solve than others. Breaking each section into one-fourth of the total questions on the sections is a good idea. This will give you a fair idea whether you are rightly paced during the test or not. This takes into account all variety of questions, some you might be able to answer in 30 seconds and some might take more than 90 seconds. Creating benchmarks kind of calculates the average to help you know whether you are rightly paced during the test.

We at SAT Champ have been the pioneers in providing online group and one-on-one classes for the SAT exam. It gives us great contentment to see our students realize their aspirations and potential through our guidance. We have catered to almost all parts of the globe as far as our students are concerned. Our students have got admitted to the most prestigious schools a child aspires to study. We have years of experience behind our back, which only increases our drive and confidence with each passing year to provide the best education for the SAT exam. Along with the content knowledge, we also teach various time management techniques to our students, providing them the niche which excels them to perform to the best of their ability on the final test day. 

The following table illustrates the SAT pattern

SAT Pattern

SectionSection NameNo. of QuestionsTime Allotted (Minutes)
1st Break: 10 Minutes
2Writing and Language4435
3Mathematics (No Calculator)2025
2nd Break: 5 Minutes
4Mathematics (Calculator)3855
3rd Break: 2 Minutes (in case you are writing the essay)
5Essay (Optional)50
Total154180 (230 with Essay)

The SAT has two broad sections Evidence-based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. You can earn a scaled score of 200-800 points in each section, making 1600 as the maximum achievable score. The SAT gives equal weightage to Verbal and Quant. It means one has to perform equally well on all the four sections leaving no scope for any weak areas either in verbal or quant.

In case you are writing the optional essay, the essay score is totally separate and is not combined with your composite score in any way. The essay is scored on a scale of 2-8 for each of the three categories Reading, Analysis, and Writing. You receive three separate scores for the three categories.

Lets breakdown the SAT section by section, giving a better idea as to how much time one should allocate on each part of the test.

1)  Reading Section

The reading section comprises 52 Questions that have to be answered in 65 minutes, giving you approximately 70 seconds to answer each question. There are five passages of around 500-750 words, each with about 10-12 questions associated with each passage. It means one can devote a 12 minute time to each section with five minutes left for reviewing the section.

The approach for time management for the Reading Section is quite different from the Math section, where each question is independent of one another. However, in the reading section, the questions are associated with a particular passage. 

One must try to read the passage slowly, absorbing the maximum information possible, and one should highlight important things mentioned in the passage. Make sure that the need to re-read the whole passage again should never arise, which might prove disastrous considering the time limit of the section. For some students reading the questions first before reading the passage might work better, and for some reading the passage first before seeing the question makes more sense. Which approach works better for you can be deciphered during your preparation phase, and one must stick to the approach comfortable to an individual. Don’t try experimenting with your approach on the final test day. Make sure that you do not devote more than 12 minutes to any passage in total. 

2)  Writing and Language Section

The writing section comprises 44 Questions that have to be answered in 35 minutes, giving you approximately 48 seconds to answer each question, which is much lesser than the Reading section. The section measures your knowledge and skills in revising and editing texts widely varied in purpose, subject, and complexity. The section requires you to be an editor and to fix the errors in grammar, punctuation, and organization of the sentence. There are four passages of around 400-450 words, each with 11 questions. It means one can devote an 8 minute time to each section with three minutes left for reviewing the section. The Subjects of the passage include one passage on a career-related topic and one passage each in the humanities, history/social studies, and science. The passages vary in complexity, with some being relatively straightforward and others being highly challenging. So, one must ensure that you don’t spend a lot of time on the straight forward passages and try committing more time to the challenging ones.

3)  Math Section

Math (No calculator) section comprises 20 Questions that have to be answered in 25 minutes, giving you 75 seconds to answer each question.

Math (Calculator) section comprises 38 Questions that have to be answered in 55 minutes, giving you approximately 87 seconds to answer each question.

Both the section of Math (No calculator and With Calculator) require the same strategy. A two-pass approach works best for this section. Most of the questions are pretty straight forward and can be solved in less than a minute if you have good content knowledge, thereby providing additional time buffer for the tough questions. The Two-pass strategy ensures that you do not leave any question unattempted. Every question is independent in the Math section, unlike the Verbal section, where the questions are related to the passage. So, one can get back to the questions left unanswered during the review time after you have attempted all the straight forward question.

4)  Essay Section:

The Essay section consists of one passage between 650-750 words and 50 minutes to complete the same. The essay section tests your reading, analytical, and writing skills. The purpose of essay writing is to assess your ability to analyze an author’s argument. Though the passage can be read in 2-3 minutes, one should devote at least 5-10 minutes in actively reading the passage underlying the thesis and take notes simultaneously about supporting Evidence. Spend the next 5-10 minutes on drafting a rough outline of the entire essay as it will help you a lot in the final drafting of the essay. The remaining 30-35 minutes should be spent in actually writing the essay. Following the above approach saves you a lot of time as one need not go through the passage again and again.

If you follow the above mentioned strategies consistenly during your mocks, you stand a great chance to overcome the hurdle of time management on the SAT day. We at SAT Champ have helped hundreds of students raise their scores dramatically, and our students have got admitted to every top school one can imagine. However, one thing we find in common among all the students who saw significant improvement in their test scores was their commitment to improvement. We at SAT Champ ensure any child who is serious about increasing scores significantly in the SAT will feel the difference as to why preparation with us makes so much difference when it comes to SAT as the SAT is an exam of elimination rather than selection. 

Our point of view – SAT can be aced, but that surely requires the guidance of top SAT instructors, which can effectively make a difference in your SAT prep.