The Clock Never Stops Ticking

Posted by Gerrin T. Alexander

July 11, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Test Day Practice

If you’re anything like me when I was in high school, you reign supreme in procrastination nation. If there’s a class called “Procrastination 101,” you’d ace it easily, and the concept of time management is completely foreign to you. But time management isn’t what it is perceived to be — it has nothing to do with managing time. Why? Because you can’t actually manage time, can you? Time is ineluctable. The grains of sand fall and time marches on whether you like it or not. Therefore, “time management” is simply behavior management, and it’s about managing your productivity within the time you’re given.

ACT Pacing and Time Management Strategies

The ACT is an oxymoron in itself; it’s both a road trip AND a ride around the corner to the gas station – it’s a long test that one must move through very quickly. The ACT tests more than your knowledge. The exam is also a measure of your performance under pressure and, essentially, the implementation of the test-taking strategies you practiced. Let’s go through some strategies that will help you tackle the ACT without running out of time!

Strategy 1: Budget Your Time

I suggest getting an old-fashioned watch to help you keep track of your pacing, without the added cost of constantly looking up and calculating how many minutes you have left. When practicing for the exam, divide each of the tests into groups of problems. This way, you’ll know the proper amount of time that should be allotted to every type of problem on every page for each section. And if you can’t finish within that allotted amount of time, remember to keep moving because you may be able to come back to it later.

Strategy 2: Know the Format for Every Test

Always keep track of the amount of questions you have left! Luckily, the number of questions per section never changes, so practice with the format in mind. The number of questions per section is as follows:

  • The ACT English Test has 75 test questions.
  • The ACT Math Test has 60 questions.
  • The ACT Reading Test has 40 test questions.
  • The ACT Science Test has 40 test questions.

This is all discussed in Alan’s article on the ACT test breakdown. Check it out here!

Strategy 3: Easy Questions

Don’t rush through the first half of each section. Instead, move quickly through the easy questions to save time for the harder questions at the end. You can also try skimming through the test, only stopping to do problems you are 100% certain on.

Either way, you are choosing a method that leaves you more time to work on the harder problems. However, this does not guarantee that you’ll get to every single problem.

Strategy 4: Answer ALL Questions

Don’t let a few hard questions ruin your chance to finish all of them because you refused to “give up” on them! Remember that there’s no wrong answer penalty on the ACT test, so when it’s coming down to the wire and you have to answer the last couple of questions, always bubble in an answer. When I was in grade school, everyone would tell you to guess “C” for questions you didn’t know the answer to or questions you didn’t have the time to answer. However, it’s NOT true that always choosing C will give you a better rate of success when blind guessing because ACT answer keys are completely computer generated and randomized. The best strategy is to pick your favorite letter and stick with it. Could that be the letter C? Sure, go right ahead! Just remember to choose it every single time when blind guessing. This strategy on average and over a spread, will let you maximize your overall point-gain in comparison to randomized guessing. All in all, if you’re spending around two minutes or more on a single question, it’s time to guess and move on because every point helps!

Remember that…

The best way to know what to expect on the test is to practice, and I can’t express that enough. Timed practice is more valuable than untimed practice, so practice, practice, practice!

You can practice time management and learn more about the ACT by visiting our Prepmedians website and working through our modules. Have fun!

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Posted by Gerrin T. Alexander

Gerrin scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT in high school and is currently studying Economics and Public Policy at The University of Chicago. Fun fact: She has done the #wopchallenge on nearly every corner of the campus, including the quad.