SAT Prep Tip: SAT Pacing


Art by Dale Eadeh (BC Teacher and Artist)

One of the most-discussed strategies for test preparation is pacing. Here we’ll delve a bit more into what pacing actually means and how you can use it to maximize your SAT score.

What is pacing?

Pacing is your pre-planned strategy for answering the greatest number of questions with the highest level of accuracy. Pacing should not be confused (or conflated) with speed or efficiency. When we refer to pacing we don’t mean how quickly you answer an individual question, but rather your plan for how many and which questions you answer during the test. Read on for our tips on how to make an effective pacing plan!

How do you create a pacing plan?

To create an effective placing plan you have to know a few things:

1. How the test is scored.

2. How questions are arranged (they are in order of difficulty by question type).

3. Which questions or question types you personally perform best on.

(To learn more about the format of the SAT click here to download a scoring guide from the College Board.)

Check out the following student’s performance on an SAT math section. This student has under-performed because he ineffectively paced himself and spent too much time on harder questions (where he didn’t gain very many points and actually lost lots of points).

Easy Medium Difficult Raw Score Scaled Score
Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank
Before 12 5 5 5 8 3 2 12 2 13 400

If (armed with the knowledge that he could gain more points by being more careful and effective on the easy questions) he were to effectively pace himself, he would improve greatly. Check out this student’s performance after a revised pacing plan:

Easy Medium Difficult Raw Score Scaled Score
Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank
Before 12 5 5 5 8 3 2 12 2 13 400
After 18 2 2 8 3 5 0 0 16 25 460

Note that the pacing plan above assumes a certain number of mistakes and skips ALL HARD QUESTIONS!

While this pacing plan may not get you an 800, it’s great for getting this person a solid improvement without learning how to do a single additional question. To effectively tackle the SAT you have to develop a personal pacing plan that accounts for your strengths, starts from your initial practice score, and plans for a few mistakes. Here are a few more pacing plans to get you started:

Pacing plan for going from 500 – 560 in math:

Easy Medium Difficult Raw Score Scaled Score
Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank
Before 17 4 1 9 6 1 3 6 7 25 500
After 20 2 0 10 4 2 3 2 11 31 560

Pacing plan for going from 600 – 660 in math:

Easy Medium Difficult Raw Score Scaled Score
Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank Right Wrong Blank
Before 20 1 1 12 2 1 10 4 2 37 600
After 22 0 0 12 1 2 9 1 6 44 660

Good luck and good learning!

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