Timing and Pacing During an Exam

By  Layton Funk

Published on  October 12, 2020

Timing Is Important

During an exam, it’s a good idea to have an idea of how much time is left. That is not to say all of your attention should be kept on the clock. On the contrary, checking the time often will actually slow you down! So, check every now and then and pace yourself as you go. When practicing, make sure to time yourself and speed up or slow down accordingly. On the real test, the timing will be similar! The reading test asks you to read 5 passages. These should take up a minority of your time while answering questions should be the bulk of time. The same can be said for writing/English and science! Don’t skim, but don’t dwell on the passages. With math, you need to get through the easy early questions quickly to leave yourself enough time for the tough ones at the end. Bubbling is also a huge deal! Bubble as you go, not at the last minute.

Order of Operations

Sometimes, you’ll reach a question or passage that just seems overly daunting. Maybe it’s a reading passage from the 1800s, a particularly difficult trigonometry passage, or a sentence placement writing question. In any case, don’t feel afraid to skip a question or whole section and come back to it! Just make sure you skip that bubble or your answer sheet might get ruined. Additionally, there’s a piece of advice I give to every student and that is in the SAT math sections, skip all the multiple choice questions and do the fill-in-the-blank questions first. There are two reasons for this: these questions are typically a little easier on average and it is nearly impossible to guess them! If you’re running out of time and they’re the only questions leftover, you won’t be likely to answer them randomly.

Stay Calm

This is easier said than done, but getting psyched out will only hamper your ability to think critically. Make sure to get some good rest the night before a test, eat right the day of, and just remember that it’s only a test! It won’t hurt you and you can only do your best on it, so don’t worry too much so you can actually do your best! Being in the correct mindset is paramount for any task, but especially ones based on critical thinking and recalling memorized facts and strategies. For some, it is good to have a sort of ritual or something to focus on to calm down if tensions get high. Find something to do, like take a deep breath or count to 10, in order to find a calm place.

Don’t Get Distracted

Possibly the most difficult and out-of-control part of any exam is staying focused on the task at hand. There may be another student coughing, a loud ticking clock, a teacher or proctor pacing just a little too loud, or maybe you realize you are hungry or need to use the restroom. In any of these cases, cutting off all outward distractions can be daunting and does take brainpower away from the test. So, it’s actually a decent idea to practice this skill whenever you can! While practicing, have something else going on and try to ignore it. Also, before the test itself, make sure you are prepared! Don’t leave anything to chance.

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