SAT Time Factor

The element of time on the SAT has been an issue of contention for the longest time but no matter where you stand across that divide, you can’t deny that it’s a significant factor in the overall make-up of the test. Rightly or wrongly, it seems time pressure is a built-in parameter of the SAT to differentiate the proficiency levels among its takers. Like it or not, it’s here to stay. So let’s just go and own it.

By design, the SAT is but a test on how well you apply what you have already learned in your high school coursework. That means questions will be set in such a way that it’s not just about coming up with the right answers to them but also how that is accomplished – swiftly and accurately. It’s natural then that time constraint becomes a fundamental feature of SAT’s, it being one of the most effectual measures for such a purpose.


It’s well-known that the best way to beat time is to conserve it and there are many instances in the SAT where we can exercise that. Here are a couple of obvious ones in each its categories:

– You should never have to read any of the directions and reference information. Memorize them beforehand.
– Post your answers in blocks. Going back and forth your test booklet (scratch work) and Answer Sheet eats up seconds and they can add up.

– Use a graphing calculator (Simultaneous Equations and Graph Functions).
– Employ mental math and eyeballing (Figures mostly drawn to scale).

– Don’t read Choice A in Sentence Improvement because you would have already done that in the question.
– Don’t read Underline E (last choice) in Sentence Error Identification; it’s always No Error.

– In Sentence Completion, don’t bother to look further once you have identified a correct choice (easy questions per Order of Difficulty).
– For dual-passages, tackle single-passage questions, passage by passage before proceeding to dual-passage ones.

The SAT is among many things, a race. But remember ‘swiftly and accurately’.

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