During the Test

Use Time Wisely


In the course of working through the model tests and practice exercises in this book, you should develop your own personal testing rhythm. You know approximately how many questions you need to get right to meet your academic goals.

Don’t get bogged down on any one question. By the time you get to the SAT, you should have a fair idea of how much time to spend on each question (about 30–40 seconds for a sentence completion question, 75 seconds for a passage-based reading question if you average in your passage reading time). If a question is taking too long, leave it and move on to the next ones. Keep moving on to maximize your score.



Before you move on, put a mark in your test booklet next to the question you’re skipping. You’re probably going to want to find that question easily later on.

What sort of mark? First, ask yourself whether it’s a question you might be able to answer if you had a bit more time or whether it’s one you have no idea how to tackle. If you think it’s one you can answer if you give it a second try, mark it with a check or an arrow and plan to come straight back to it after you’ve worked through the easy questions in the section. If you think it’s a lost cause, mark it with an X and come back to it only after you’ve answered all the other questions in the section and double-checked your answers. Either way, mark the test booklet and move on.

Whenever you skip a question, check frequently to make sure you are answering later questions in the right spots. No machine is going to notice that you made a mistake early in the test, by answering question 9 in the space for question 8, so that all your following answers are in the wrong places. Line up your answer sheet with your test booklet. That way you’ll have an easier time checking that you’re getting your answers in the right spots.

Never just skip for skipping’s sake. Always try to answer each question before you decide to move on. Keep up that “can do” spirit—the more confident you are that you can answer the SAT questions, the more likely you are to give each question your best shot.



First answer all the easy questions; then tackle the hard ones if you have time. You know that the questions in each segment of the test get harder as you go along (except for the passage-based reading questions). But there’s no rule that says you have to answer the questions in order. You’re allowed to skip; so, if the last three sentence completion questions are driving you crazy, move on to the reading passages right away. Take advantage of the easy questions to boost your score.



If you’re running out of time on a critical reading section and you’re smack in the middle of a reading passage, look for the shortest questions on that passage and try answering them. Aim for questions with answer choices that are only two or three words long. You don’t need much time to answer a vocabulary-in-context question or a straightforward question about the author’s attitude or tone, and one or two extra correct answers can boost your score an additional 10 to 20 points.



Eliminate as many wrong answers as you can. Sometimes you’ll be able to eliminate all the choices until you have just one answer left. Even if you wind up with two choices that look good, deciding between two choices is easier than deciding among five. What’s more, the reasoning that helped you decide which answer choices to eliminate may also give you new insights into the question and help you figure out which of the remaining answer choices is correct.

Draw a line through any answer you decide to eliminate. Then, if you decide to move on to another question and come back to this one later, you won’t forget which answer choices you thought were wrong. (However, when you cross out an answer choice, do so lightly. Don’t obliterate it totally. You may want to look it over again later if you decide your first impulse to eliminate it was wrong.)

Even if you can’t settle on a correct answer and decide to guess, every answer you eliminate as definitely wrong improves your chances of guessing right.