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Test PrepSATWritingTime Management

SAT Writing 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 20 and 25 minute chunks of time, but it’s still possible to lose your way, especially when it comes to the Essay.

What the Typical Test-Taker Does

Many test-takers fly through the multiple-choice Writing sections of the test, 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. Conversely, when it comes to the essay, many test-takers fail to complete this portion in the time allotted.

Don’t Be Typical

Here’s a better strategy for you:

  1. Own the multiple-choice sections and take charge. Do the question type (error ID, improve the sentences or improve the paragraphs) that you are best at (meaning highest percentage correct), then move on to the one you are second best at. Leave your “worst” section to the end.
  2. 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 on error ID and improve the sentence questions.
  3. 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.
  4. Don’t just start writing your essay. Invest five minutes at the front-end of the essay to outline/organize your thoughts. With sufficient preparation, you should have a structure down pat, but those first five minutes will help you get your ducks in a row and avoid a scramble at the end.

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. You can choose to guess on questions that you don’t get to (just pick a “letter of the day”) or leave them blank. Typically, unless you can eliminate at least one answer choice, it will neither help nor hurt your score.

Not finishing a multiple-choice section isn’t necessarily a game-ender. In fact, you might want to plan on leaving 2-3 questions blank; just try and avoid leaving questions you typically ace unanswered. If you’re going to run out of time, you want it to be with the types of questions you typically miss anyway! And you definitely want to be able to complete the essay! Always afford yourself the time to write at least a one to two sentence conclusion.

*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 score.


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Don Munce