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Test PrepSATReadingTime Management

SAT Reading Skill Review: Time Management

The SAT demands solid time management skills. 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 20 and 25 minute chunks of time. However, it’s still possible to lose your way, especially when it comes to the Reading sections.

What the Typical Test-Taker Does

The typical test-taker flies through the sentence completion questions (conveniently located at the start of each Reading section) and then gets mired within the reading passages, often running out of time before he/she is finished.

Don’t Be Typical

Remember - every multiple-choice question is worth the same amount. Speed doesn’t count for anything if it simply results in careless mistakes:

  1. Always start with the sentence completions. You can move through them efficiently by employing your sentence completion approach (find the clue and trigger, come up with your own word, then go to the answer choices and eliminate non-matches).
  2. Don’t get hung up on any one question. Eliminate as many answer choices as you can, make your best guess and move on. If there’s time at the end, you can circle back.
  3. Take control of the reading passages. You can tackle the passages in any order you want.  Therefore, we recommend you spend 20 seconds flipping through the section to see what each passage is about. Attack them in the order with which you’re most comfortable. For example, if a science passage is first and you’re wary, save it for the end.
  4. Don’t get lost in a passage. Don’t spend more than a few minutes actively reading the passage before getting to the questions.
  5. Once you commit to a passage, truly stick with it. As we stated above, while you can tackle them in any order you want, don’t jump back and forth from passage to passage. Attempt all of the questions pertaining to one passage before moving to the next.

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 700*, you really don’t need to answer all the questions. Not finishing a section isn’t necessarily a game-ender. Just try to avoid leaving questions you typically ace blank. If you’re going to run out of time, let it be with the types of questions you typically miss anyway!

*Note, if you are aiming for a score above 700, finishing the test is important – a few blank questions won’t kill you, but more than that will make it tougher to achieve your goal.


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Don Munce