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Pace Yourself (ACT/SAT)


Standardized Test Prep Middle/High School Strategy


Anxiety Organization Working Memory Attention Processing Speed Visual Motor Speed

Pace Yourself (ACT/SAT)

The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.
— Brian Herbert

It is essential on standardized tests to have a good awareness of time, recognizing when you need to work quickly and when you need to slow down to ensure accuracy.

How To Apply It!

  1. Take timed sample tests to become familiar with each sub-test. Expect to have a slightly different approach for each sub-test which might also vary between the SAT and ACT if you are taking both.
  2. Find a watch that is allowable for the test that you can use to help you manage your time and practice with that same watch. Using a watch on your desk will save you time of looking up at the clock in the room.
  3. Create a schedule to track time on each sub-test that includes start time, end time, number of questions completed, and accuracy. Some students choose to practice by only using the allotted time. Others give themselves the time they need to finish to see their best accuracy and then decide how to cut time later. Use this schedule throughout your test preparation process to track progress.
  4. Develop a strategy for each sub-test which includes: average time per question, maximum time per question, and maximum time per reading passage. Decide what is more efficient: completing consecutive questions in order or personal order by question type; filling in answer sheet by question or filling in groups of questions. The goal is for you to figure out how you work best for both speed and accuracy.
  5. Use your strategy with every practice test. Immediately reflect on what worked and where you can improve. Look for patterns in your performance. Are you making careless mistakes and need to give yourself a minimum time per question? Are you running out of time and need to give yourself less time on the initial questions? Are certain types of questions taking you longer? Identify what content you might need to practice more but also make adjustments to your timing strategy so you continue to improve.
  6. Stamina will be important. As you get closer to test day, be sure to practice sitting for full-length tests so your mind and body (especially your eyes and hand) are prepared.
  7. At least one week before the test, commit your pacing schedule to memory. Know your timing by sub-test and stick to it. Having reliable strategies on test day can lessen anxiety and improve overall performance.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Standardized tests are designed to test a student's knowledge while working quickly. It is essential that you find your individual balance of accuracy and speed to show your best work. The best way to do that is to monitor your test taking with a timer, look for patterns in your own performance, and make adjustments. Plan to have a steady, incremental and realistic approach so that you are seeing continuous improvement.