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Time management on the SAT Math test

A guide to time management for the digital SAT Math test
To succeed on the SAT Math test, you need two kinds of skills: math skills and time management skills. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can manage your time to succeed on the math portion of the SAT.

Understanding the test structure

The math portion of the SAT is 70 minutes long and has 44 questions, divided over two modules of 35 minutes and 22 questions each.
That means you have 95 seconds, or about a minute and a half, to spend on each question. But, this is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule! Some questions may take you thirty seconds, while others may take several minutes.
The SAT is adaptive: The first module of each section contains a broad mix of easy, medium, and hard questions. Based on how you perform on the first module, the second module of questions will either be more difficult or less difficult. On the real test, you won’t be able to move onto the second module until your 35 minutes for the first module are up. On the practice tests, you can skip to the second module earlier, but we recommend against it (more on this below). Note that there is no break between the first and second Math modules—instead, your first break happens at the end of the Reading and Writing section, before the first module of the Math section begins.

Important time management tips and strategies

  • Use the two passes strategy. With this technique, you’ll go through each module once to answer all the questions that you feel confident about. Make sure to mark any questions you don’t complete so you can come back to them during round two! After you’ve completed your first round and gotten all those easy points, head back to those skipped questions and get to work on them. This way, you prioritize spending time on the questions most likely to earn you points.
  • Don’t second-guess yourself! Go with your gut. Don’t worry if a question seems “too easy” or “obvious”. Your first instinct is usually correct—especially if you’ve been studying and doing plenty of practice questions!
  • Leave time at the end of each module to review your answers. If you find yourself stumped on a question or stuck between two or more choices, just take your best guess and move on. If you’ve followed the two passes strategy, you’ll be able to come back to the question later, once you’ve finished the rest of the module. Which brings us to…
  • Mark questions you’re not sure about for review. The Bluebook™ app contains a tool that lets you mark the question you’re on for review. This option appears right next to the question number. When you get to the end of the module, you’ll see a review page, and the questions you marked for review will be flagged. You can click back into these questions and re-read them and check your answer. Then, at the bottom of the question page, you can click back to the review page. Note that you can click back into any question until time is up—including the ones you didn’t mark—but it will be much easier to remember which questions you want to come back to if you do mark them for review.
  • Don’t leave any questions blank! The SAT doesn’t penalize you for wrong answers, so no matter how stumped you feel on a given question, you should always take a guess. You should select a choice the first time you encounter the question, even if you mark it to come back to later—just in case you run out of time before you get back to it.
  • Don’t start the second module early on your practice tests! The practice tests give you the option to start the second module before the time allotted for your first module is up. However, on the real test, you won’t get this option—you’ll have to wait until those 35 minutes are over. So, when you finish the first module on your practice tests, we recommend that you use any leftover time just like you would on the real test: to review the questions you’re not sure about.
You’ve got this!

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