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ACT/SAT Test Taking Tips: Timing

April 6, 2017

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Do You Have a Test Day Game Plan?

 

Does that sound like an odd question?  Why would you have a game plan for taking the SAT or the ACT?  My question is, why wouldn’t you??   Would you want to play football, lacrosse, basketball, soccer without a game plan?  Would you want to be part of a big musical dance number with no choreography?
 

When it comes to sports, music, dance, the answer tends to be “No!  I would not like to go in without a game plan.” For academics, the answer is not always no. 
 

We all know the importance of SAT and ACT for college admissions and/or scholarships (we don’t have to agree with it but it is still there).  Schools give 10th and 11th graders the PSAT as a preview or practice run for SAT.  They do not review it and most families have no idea how to read the report they get.  Many students still take the real test officially the first time “cold” (no preparation at all).  For some, cold works out just fine.  For others, it does not.

How do you put a game plan together?

  1.  Familiarize yourself with the test you wish to take. 

    1. The sections on the test

    2. The order of the sections

    3. The amount of time for each section

    4. The number of passages or problems in each section

    5. How much time you have per section or question

  2.  Determine how good your timing is.

    1. Do you finish comfortably in the time allowed per section?

    2. If you “normally” run out of timed tests, how do you plan to handle questions you do not have time for?

    3. If you have extra time, how do you plan on using it?

  3.  Determine how good your test taking skills are.

    1. Do you cross off answer choices you know are wrong?

    2. Do you underline key words, circle the word NOT, draw lines on graphs?

    3. Do you read every word in every reading passage?

  4.  Take practice tests.

    1. Practice test allow you to familiarize yourself with the test format (order of sections, timing).

    2. Practice tests allow you to become familiar with content. 

    3. Practice tests have solution guides, which explain why the correct answer is the correct answer – this allows you to learn from and about the test.

Honestly, what I hear all the time is “Yeah, I can do this on my own.”  When I ask, “Have you started yet?” the answer is generally “No”.  Please allow yourself a couple of months at a slow pace to prep for SAT or ACT.  There are plenty of materials online and in books to help you.  This is not something you cram for the night before.  If you are not carving time out of your schedule, consider a prep class.  If nothing else, having an appointment set up to meet with someone tends to ensure you will prep.

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