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SAT Prep Tip: What to Do When You're Running Out of Time

Posted in Test Prep on March 15, 2010 by

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Emily Holleman is a Content Developer at Knewton, where she helps students take a deep breath during their SAT prep classes.

You’ve done all you can to prepare for the SAT. You’ve taken a course, you’ve studied hard, you’ve done some practice tests, the whole shebang — and yet, you here you are on the test itself and… you’re almost out of time on a section. Here’s what to do:

1. Take a deep breath. Yeah, sure, it sounds cliché, but you’re not going to gain any points for hyperventilating on the test. Remember, much as it seems like it right now, the SAT is not the be all and end all of life as you know it. If worst comes to worst, you can retake it.

2. Find the questions you can answer. Skip around as much as you need to. Sure, parts of the SAT are organized from easiest to hardest—but not all of them. Passage questions, for instance, aren’t sorted by difficulty. So, if you’re on a CR section, go straight to the questions with line references. These are usually more specific and easier to answer fast. On math sections, which are arranged in order of difficulty, remember to play to your own strengths. If you’re great at algebra but suck at geometry, go hit up those variable questions. Remember, there are no points for valor here. You get the same credit for correctly answering a question that comes easily to you as you do for getting one right after you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into it. (Figuratively speaking. As a general rule, you should avoid getting bodily fluids on your actual test.)

3. Guess wisely and guess well. You may know that there’s a so-called “guessing penalty” on the SAT (you get docked 1/4 point for every question you get wrong). But, mathematically speaking, it’s worth it for you to guess on any question where you can eliminate even one of the answer choices. So, as long as you can cross out one that you know is wrong, guess away!

4. Time’s up! What next? If this is the end of your test, go home and relax (… and wait for those test scores to get posted online). If you’ve got one or more sections left, put the last one out of your head. This time around, make sure to budget your time. You shouldn’t be spending more than a few minutes on any given question. If you get bogged down on one, make a wise guess if you can (that is, if you can eliminate one wrong answer choice!) and move on to the next problem.


photo by laffy4k