23 June 2011

Why most time problems really aren’t

I think that far too much gets made of the fact that the SAT is a timed test. Yes, you do need to practice finishing sections within the allotted time and take a full-length test or two before the real thing in order to learn how to pace yourself, but in your actual studying, your goal needs to be mastering the actual material, not just doing timed section after timed section and seeing how fast you can get.

I’ve had a couple of students come to me seriously concerned about time issues and wanting to focus on improving their speed. They were all a bit surprised to learn that I don’t usually deal directly with speed in the sense that I rarely time people or, with the exception of ACT Reading, talk about how much time they *should* be spending on any given section of a test. Why? Because speed is what results when you strengthen the actual (logical, mathematical, grammatical, etc.) skills that you’re being tested on rather than a technique in and of itself. If you just focus on the speed at the expense of the actual skills, you end up short-circuiting the entire process. You might get faster, but your score probably won’t go up all that much. On the other hand, if you improve your skills sufficiently, you won’t waste time pondering answer choices rather than actively solving problems, and the time issue usually takes care of itself.

Leave a Reply