5 Tips to Improve Your Timing on the ACT and SAT

Raghuram Sukumar ACT, SAT Leave a Comment

The SAT and the ACT are a stress-filled roadblock on the way to a college education. The questions are tough and it always feels like you don’t have enough time. So how do you fix that? The New York Times has offered up some helpful hints to help you curb your time on the ACT and SAT.

Take Practice Tests

Practice tests allow you to see the type of material you will be facing on the test and also will give you a feel for how much time you should need on a section. Repeated practice will also help you internalize a pace, so that when you take the actual test, you can move through it at about the same speed.

Set a Target Score

By setting a target score, you allow yourself a margin of error to work in. If you think that you can score near a 40 on an ACT section, then go for it. But if you see yourself as just average, try shooting for a 23, which is 27 correct answers. Doing this allows you to possibly skip the harder questions and come back if you have time.

Don’t Stop on Hard Questions

This wastes so much time. Get all of the easy questions out of the way so you can get the highest score you can, then return to the harder ones if you have time.

Don’t Guess on the SAT

The makers of SAT have factored in a guessing penalty, which takes a quarter of a point for each wrong answer. Because of this, you want to be as accurate as possible, but also fast. However, the ACT doesn’t have this restriction, so when five minutes is called, just fill in the remaining bubbles at a fast pace and don’t worry too much about accuracy.

Adjust Your Pacing

The ACT math section allows 60 minutes for 60 questions.

test prep timing

However, the reading section only offers 45 minutes for 75 questions, which leaves you a little less than a minute and a half to read each passage and 30 seconds for each question.

So you have to learn strategies that help you avoid a time crunch.

Some people skim the passage first and then answer the questions, while others read the questions first and then answer them as they go through the passage. Basically, just do what is most helpful to you and try to stay relaxed about it.


While these tips are helpful, there is truly only one way to do well on the ACT and the SAT: Know the answers.

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