The ability to successfully pace yourself, knowing how much time you have left and how much time to spend on a given question, is a key success factor for standardized test-takers.

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

1. Modify your pacing on different sections of the test

Each section or component of a standardized test typically contains a different numbers of questions. Students can determine an optimal pacing for each of the sections based on question count and the time allotted. Additionally, students can take into consideration their own strengths and weaknesses for each section (e.g., greater strength in English or Mathematics) to adjust pacing.

2. Save time-consuming questions for the end

It is often useful to make an initial attempt to solve each question in order, or to at least gauge what a question entails and how long it may take to solve. However, if a question begins to take too much time or becomes confusing, it is strategic to temporarily skip it and return to it with remaining time at the end of the test. One qualification is that pacing should not be rushed and questions should not be skipped too frequently.

3. Make effective guesses on difficult questions

In previous years, the scoring policy of the SAT differed from the ACT in that incorrect answers resulted in point deductions. The result has been that determining when to guess on SAT questions has not always been straightforward. However, beginning in 2016 with the Redesigned SAT, incorrect answers will no longer result in point deductions. This means that students will now have more reason to complete questions rather than leave them blank. Having said this, students should still attempt to make effective guesses on difficult questions, by making as much progress as they can and eliminating answer choices before selecting a final answer choice.

4. Remove Distractions

Test taking can be difficult enough as it is without the influence of other distractions. Students should do what they can to remove distractions during test day, and remember that unnecessary stress about the test or the clock can also be a distraction. Some students that spend too much time responding to wall clocks in testing centers have found that using a small test timer on their desk works better for them.

5. Take Practice Tests in Advance

Taking practice tests before test day can help students with nearly every aspect of test taking, including pacing. Students will gain familiarity with the test sections and question content, as well as the time allotted to each section. Timing yourself during these practice sessions is essential, and will help students develop an optimal pacing strategy that works for them.


Socrato is a website for scoring and performance reports for standardized admissions test preparation. Socrato reports are available for the SAT, ACT, PSAT, SSAT, HSPT, and many more tests. You can learn more or try for free at Featured image credit: Larry & Teddy Page

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