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Test PrepACTEnglishTime Management

ACT English Skill Review: Time Management

The need for solid time management skills is a constant throughout the test. The test structure itself helps you out by slicing and dicing the more than three hours you’ll spend at the testing center into more manageable chunks of time, but it’s still possible to lose your way.

What the Typical Test-Taker Does

Many test-takers fly through the multiple-choice English test as quickly as they can, often having time left at the end. Along the way, they make many careless mistakes. Therefore, we'd just like to highlight the fact that efficiency is different than speed.

Don't Be Typical

Here’s a better strategy for you:

  1. Take charge. Do the easiest (for you) questions first, and leave the more difficult ones until later. This is often referred to as the two-pass system.
  2. Consider context and writing style when answer passage-based questions.
  3. Compare answer choices. Spotting differences between answer choices will help you determine what is being tested and will help you eliminate answer choices.
  4. Keep a running checklist of often-tested grammar rules in your head. Better yet, jot them down on your test booklet to use as a checklist when looking for mistakes.
  5. Don’t get hung up on any one question. Eliminate as many answer choices as you can, make your best guess and move on. Use the time remaining to circle back.
  6. Don’t leave any question blank. There is no guessing penalty on the ACT. Do NOT leave unanswered questions. Always provide an answer to every question even if you are just filling in a letter of the day.

Remember: You are in control of your testing experience. If you get stuck or lost or freaked-out, take ten seconds, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Those ten seconds will be well-spent.

Don’t Panic if You Don’t Have Time for Each Question

Unless you are aiming for a score above 30*, you really don’t need to tackle all the questions. You can (and should) bubble in an answer for all questions even if you are doing so randomly. Just pick a "letter of the day".

Not tackling every question on a multiple-choice test isn’t necessarily a game-ender. In fact, you might want to plan to only work on 70 (or 65 or 72, whatever makes sense for you); just don’t guessing on questions that you typically ace.

*Note, if you are aiming for a score above 30, finishing the test is important – a few blind guesses won’t doom you, but more than that will make it tougher to achieve your goal score. Blanks are simply squandered opportunities to at least pick up a point or two through luck.


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Don Munce