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Running Out of Time

It’s a common occurrence when taking the ACT. If you’re like most students, you struggle to finish different sections of the ACT or maybe even struggle to finish every section! You’re not alone.  There are a lot of questions and this is a timed test, so time management is key to finishing each section.

Let’s take a quick look at the breakdown of questions and the allotted amount of time per section.

 
Questions
Time
English
75 60 Minutes
Math
60 60 Minutes
Reading 
40 35 Minutes
Science
40 35 Minutes

English:

We like to say that the English section is one of the easiest sections to pick up points. Think about…within this section you are reviewing idioms, punctuation, pronouns, verbs, rhetoric content, and rhetoric style. Those are all things you’ve most likely learned about in the eighth grade. A solid review of all of those categories will pick up lost time within this section and leave you feeling ready for the math section, where students typically feel rushed.

Math:

The math portion of the ACT can be tricky for some students. There are 60 questions and 60 minutes to complete the section. Within this section, the questions become progressively harder. The second half of the test will generally have the questions that take the longest amount of time to solve and will involve more geometry and trigonometry than algebra. Do you struggle with geometry? Do you need help with trig? Defining what areas you struggle with and spending more time brushing up on those skills will be a huge help with the math section. Try not to rush.  Answer each question to the best of your ability and if you feel pressed for time, bubble in the last questions with the same letter. Read about our Letter of the Day Strategy here.

Reading:

Most students have a hard time completing the reading section since there are four different passages (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, literary fiction) to skim through as well as forty questions to accompany the passages.  You have less than a minute to answer each question! Don’t freak out.  There are different strategies to use within the reading section. Each passage has ten questions. Skim through the passage, then attack the questions. There are different categories within the passage such as line reference  (e.g., “In lines 16-20”). Line reference is literally directing you straight to the lines within the passage!  Other categories include lead word, comparing passages, vocabulary in context, the main point/big picture, and tone.

Science:

Here’s a shocker…there is no physical science in the science section of the ACT! It’s mainly charts and graphs. As you study for this section, make sure you know how to accurately read graphs and charts since the answers for all of the questions are right in front of you. For the questions that you can’t answer with the visuals, you can usually figure them out by reading the passage. Save time by skipping the instructions and head straight to the questions. Then go back to review the passage and the answer will most likely be within the passage.

 

Every student is different, but the common occurrence among all students is time management within the ACT.  One way we like to prepare students is by giving them a Pretest, Midterm, and Final. Then we compare each test to see how far each student has improved. Not only does this get students ready for the test by practicing strategies, but it also helps practice their time management skills.  

Winter Break Time Management

Winter break is fast approaching, and you’ve probably got serious plans. Maybe you’ve got ACT prep to do or college applications to (finally) complete or volunteer work or rehearsals or practice or family projects…it’s all doable, right?

Until suddenly you’ve got two days left until class begins and it feels like you’ve done nothing but scroll through Unimpressed Cats and moderate an unwieldy group text between some people who, honestly, shouldn’t be allowed to group text.

Here are some tips for how to manage time wisely and make the most of your upcoming break.

  • Schedule time for interruptions.

If your schedule is too tight, one unexpected distraction can throw everything into chaos. Your mom wants you to pick up your little brother from soccer? Where is that time going to come from? You don’t even have time to get a glass of water until tomorrow at 3:15 PM.

Build time into your schedule to allow for the unexpected so that you can move things around, be flexible, and not lose all of your momentum. If you don’t end up using your extra time, resist the urge to cram more (unnecessary) activities into your day. Take a break. Go for a walk. Take a nap.

  • Examine

Procrastination can be a source of frustration and guilt, but it can also be a source of information. What kinds of things are you putting off? Examine what your feelings are about those tasks. This might not be pleasant, but it’s important!

You might find, at the root of your strong desire to avoid a task, you’re feeling uncertain about the requirements, or anxious about the outcome, or just generally overwhelmed. Getting to the bottom of your procrastination is the first step towards solving the problem.

  • Focus on one thing at a time.

Multi-tasking is a waste of time.

It’s been proven. With science. Work on one task at a time. You’ll actually get more done. If you’re worried you’ll waste all of your time on one thing when your to-do list contains 75, see tips #5 and #6.

  • Don’t waste time waiting.

It may not seem like it, but you probably have time you’re not using. Down time is important. I am not suggesting that every moment be dedicated to accomplishing tasks. However, time that is neither productive nor restful is wasted time.

Waiting for an oil change? Bring a book or an assignment. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty – these little bits of time add up, so don’t kid yourself into thinking they don’t “count.”

  • Don’t be a perfectionist.

One of the best time management tips I ever received was from this textbook: “Define ‘acceptable’ and stop there.”

For those of us used to overachieving, this might sound blasphemous. You can’t just get by with acceptable! You’ve got to do the very best job possible! But when doing the very best job possible one on project means that something else doesn’t get done at all, it’s time to re-evaluate your system. Some tasks don’t require lots of flair. What is the expectation? Fulfill the expectation, meet the requirements, and move on.

This doesn’t mean you’re turning in shoddy work. It does mean that if you’ve got a 10-point worksheet of French sentences to write, writing them neatly and correctly might be enough. Maybe you don’t also have to create a delightful story out of them, if that’s not even part of your assignment.

  • Set time limits.

If you have many things to do, decide how long you’ll spend on each task. Set a timer or an alarm and stick to it. You might be surprised how much you can accomplish in an hour or even 15 minutes.

Setting a time limit helps you to stay focused on your task because you have less time to waste. If I have two days to write a paper, spending two hours on Instagram doesn’t seem like a big deal. If I have an hour to come up with an outline and an introduction, I am less likely to waste that time.

Time limits also help coax you into approaching tasks that seem frightening or unmanageable. You can do anything for fifteen minutes. Even brainstorm college essays.

  • Take care of yourself.

If you’re already ruthless about getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, taking breaks, etc., congratulations! Keep those habits up.

If you’re the type of person who misses out on basic self-care in favor of getting more done, know that you are actually less productive than you would be if you were eating and sleeping and taking regular breaks. Leave enough time in your schedule for meals, breaks, sleep, and social activities. You’ll feel better, get more done, and be less likely to get sick.

This is a busy time of year for everyone, but if you approach it intentionally you may be surprised at how much you can accomplish while avoiding mind-numbing panic. Good luck!