Test Prep

5 Pacing Tips for the SAT

Elizabeth French/College Confidential

Time management is essential for conquering the SAT. You will have less than 90 seconds to read and answer each question -- the following list shows exactly how much time you’ll have on each section:

- Reading: You have 65 minutes to answer 52 questions, leaving 1 minute, 15 seconds per question.


- Writing and Language: You have 35 minutes to complete 44 questions, leaving 47.7 seconds per question.

- Math: 

          - Calculator Section: You have 55 minutes to answer 38 questions, leaving 1 minute, 26.8 seconds per question.

          - No Calculator Section: You have 20 questions, leaving 1 minute, 15 seconds per question.

Fortunately, our experts at The Princeton Review have developed the following strategies that will help you maximize your test time, and your SAT score.

1. Look for Incorrect Answers And Cross Them Out in Your Test Booklet

Wrong answers will jump out at you more clearly than right ones. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you might still be able to cross out three answers you know to be incorrect. This is called process of elimination. Even if you only cross out two answers, you’ve increased your odds of guessing correctly to one in two instead of one out of four.

2. Develop Your Personal Order of Difficulty

SAT questions are not arranged in order of difficulty on the test. You can identify the types of questions on each section that are more challenging for you as you prepare for the SAT. For example, you may be able to answer questions about reading passages with line numbers more quickly than those without. On test day, quickly review the full section when the timer starts and make note of easier questions to work on first and more difficult ones to leave for the end of the section.

3. Slow Down

Unless you’re currently scoring over 650 on both sections, you should not be working every question. The SAT is not scored on how many questions you answer; it is scored on how many questions you answer correctly. If you take your time to correctly answer the questions you know and leave more difficult questions for our next strategy, you can earn more correct answers overall. That means more points!

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Guess

You will maximize your score by correctly answering each question about which you feel confident -- but you can pick up some points easily by guessing. You will not be penalized for incorrect answers on the SAT, so after you’ve made your best effort to answer the questions you know and eliminated answers you’re certain are incorrect on questions you’re not sure about, go ahead and take a guess. If you’re running out of time on a section and haven’t had a chance to work the last few questions, choose one letter to bubble in for all of them. You still have a one-in-four chance of guessing correctl

You can start timing your practice, working on process of elimination and identifying your personal order of difficulty using the official SAT tests released by the College Board.

5. Stay Calm

The most important thing to remember to keep pace on the SAT is, in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, Don’t panic! If you go in with a plan for managing your time and prioritizing questions in each section, then you’ll know just what to do if your nerves kick in.