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Test PrepACTMathTime Management

ACT Math Skill Review: Time Management

The ACT demands solid time management skills. Unlike the SAT, the ACT gives you just one math section (or test, as the test-writers call it). It’s 60 minutes long, so it can be pretty easy to lose your way if you get caught up in a single question.

What the Typical Test-Taker Does

The typical test-taker works through the ACT Math test one question at a time, in the order they are presented. This approach can be detrimental in several ways. Often, test-takers run out of time before they are finished. Moreover, by rushing to get through all 60 questions, test-takers frequently make careless mistakes on questions they should be getting right. And finally, many test-takers invest too much time on questions they have little chance of answering correctly! Remember, every math question is worth the same amount.

Don’t Be Typical

Here’s a better strategy for you:
  1. Employ the two-pass system. If a question involves a topic you struggle with, leave it for the second pass (or skip entirely).
  2. Set up checkpoints. Check in at the 20-minute and 40-minute marks and make sure you are where you want to be. If you struggle with time management, consider checking in more frequently, say every 15 minutes. Use the final 5 minutes to make sure you’ve provided an answer, even if only a guess, for every question.
  3. Move efficiently through each math section. Speed doesn’t count for anything if careless mistakes are the result.
  4. Stay in control. Don’t get hung up on any one question, even if you thought it was one you could handle. Cut your losses and move on.
  5. Use your second pass wisely. Tackle those questions you think you can handle with a little extra time. Guess on the remainder.
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 Finish

Unless you are aiming for a score above 30, you really don’t need to tackle all the questions. But you should always provide an answer to each question on the ACT as there is no penalty for guessing.

Not finishing a section isn’t necessarily a game-ender; just don’t skip questions you usually ace. You want to run out of time on the types of questions you typically miss anyway!


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Don Munce