SAT Subject Tests are optional standardized exams that allow you to demonstrate your academic ability in a particular subject area. There are a total of 20 tests across five fields: English, history, languages, math, and science.
Taking an SAT Subject Test in your potential major can help you prove your passion for and commitment to your studies, especially if you declare this major on your college applications. Each exam is a mere 60 minutes in length, and even the busiest students can often find the time to sit for one. However, a test this brief also increases the need for pacing strategies. Consider these seven tips in order to maximize your time on SAT Subject Tests:
Determine time-per-question for your exam
The number of questions on each SAT Subject Test varies depending on the topic. You may face 50-95 questions, but always within 60 minutes. You will have anywhere from 37 to 72 seconds per problem, and if you’re seeking an elite score, you should be prepared to answer almost every question. Each problem is worth the same number of points, so be sure to prioritize easier questions over harder ones.
Identify your pacing strategy
Consider taking full-length practice tests in order to identify your timing tendencies. For example, do you consistently run out of time before you reach the last 12 questions? Try to determine the number of problems that you must answer correctly in order to earn your target score. Then, work backwards to create your pacing strategy (i.e. you must reach question 10 within eight minutes). Continue to practice to increase your accuracy and speed.
Learn to recognize your impossible questions
As you take sample exams, practice identifying those questions that you have no idea how to answer. If you encounter these problems on test day, you can immediately skip them without wasting precious time. Remember, there is no penalty for leaving a question blank, but a wrong response will result in a deduction. While you should use this strategy sparingly, you can rely on it for one or two problems.
Understand unique formats
Some SAT Subject Tests may require you to use an approved calculator (i.e. Mathematics Level 1) or CD player (i.e. Spanish with Listening). This can alter your pacing. Familiarize yourself with these devices in advance, and make sure you use fresh batteries on test day. The College Board has very specific guidelines about which calculators you may use, so practice with an approved calculator. This can limit the time you spend searching for functions during the exam.
Develop your internal clock
Constantly checking the clock can quickly become a distraction. However, if you develop your internal clock through ample practice, you will soon know when you are dwelling on a question for too long. If you reach this point on test day, either make an educated guess by eliminating answer choices, or skip the question and move on.
Review exam directions in advance
Each SAT Subject Test has its own set of directions, so become familiar with your exam’s directions as soon as possible. This way, you can focus all your time on answering questions, rather than on trying to read or understand directions on test day.
Take SAT Subject Tests immediately after the applicable classes
This strategy may not be directly related to pacing, but taking SAT Subject Tests while their material is still fresh in your mind can help you move through the exam more efficiently. It can also boost your scores. After all, SAT Subject Tests are designed to assess content that is typically taught in high school courses.
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