Students: How to Avoid Running Out of Time on the SATs


Subscribe To Our Blog

It’s officially SAT season, and for many students, that can mean full on panic mode. BUT it doesn’t have to be. With dedication and practice students can work through every question on the SAT but add in time management and it could be the difference between a mediocre score and an outstanding one.

Time management skills are a useful part of everyday life and learning them early on can give young adults a leg up. In addition to content familiarity and problem-solving skills, employing these four time-management techniques can help students maximize their score on the SAT:

Practice Creating Outlines for the Essay Section

One of the most dreaded sections, yet a using a simple technique can be key to navigating this section. Spend just a few minutes at the beginning of essay section to map out a rough outline and response. Having a general idea of what your key points are can save you valuable time. An outline ensures you don’t run out of ideas or sidetracked midway through your response. Allow yourself 5 minutes per essay to create a strong thesis statement that clearly declares your position and three pieces of supporting evidence for your argument. Now you just need to connect the dots and elaborate on your points.

Don’t Linger – 60 Seconds per Math Question

It can be hard not to go down the rabbit hole and get completely engrossed and stuck on that one math problem that you just can’t figure out. When doing test prep, you should always be vigilant about following the time limits, but with math especially, try completing each section in five fewer minutes than you will have on test day.

Another strategy is to just keep moving through the questions regardless the outcome – allow yourself one minute per math question and move on regardless of whether you arrive at an answer. If you have extra time at the end, you can go back to the ones that you didn’t finish. Never leave a question blank – you have a 25% chance on the SAT of getting a math question right by guessing.  Circle the questions you skip or guess on and come back to them later if you can.

Skim First, Reread as Needed

The most difficult section to time manage is reading comprehension. Why? Because most students spend so much time just reading the passage trying to absorb all the information before even looking at the question. This could lead to spending too much time on details that aren’t even relevant to answering the question.

Even when doing a careful readthrough, most students don’t retain enough information on the first pass to recall enough information to answer the question. So, they must re-read parts of the passage again in order to find the answer. The result is that most students end up reading the same passage multiple times, which translates to an immense loss of time.

A better approach is to skim the passages to get the gist of their content first, then read the question, and finally go back to the passage to find the details.

Go With Your Gut

You will undoubtably second guess yourself several times while taking the SAT. Especially when it comes to the writing/language section, you can correctly answer a significant number of these questions just by listening to your instincts about English grammar.

If an answer choice immediately sticks out to you as being right or able to be eliminated – listen to your gut. The average time per question on the writing/language section is 47 seconds – this means you aren’t meant to spend precious minutes over analyzing.

Introducing these time management tips for each section of the test will most likely help you move through the test much more efficiently. Good Luck!

Laura Berendsohn

Laura Berendsohn
Washington Branch Manager, Assistant Vice President