The SAT and ACT tests are intense and require you to pay close attention to the time and pacing of the exam. You want to keep track of time for yourself on the SAT or ACT and not rely solely on the clock in the room, but what are the rules?
According to College Board (the SAT folks), you can bring a watch, but it cannot have an audible alarm or make any “beeping” noises. All digital watches or watches with alarms need to be turned off. Essentially, your watch cannot make any noise. In addition, you are not allowed to bring a separate timer of any kind.
The ACT policy is: “Bring a watch to pace yourself, but do not bring a watch with an alarm. If your alarm sounds during testing, you’ll be dismissed and your answers will not be scored.”
So, how can you keep track of time during the individual sections of the test without a timer and without a digital watch (that you might risk beeping)? You can, of course, rely on the clock that might be in the room or wait for the test administrator to say “5 minutes left!”, but we would like you to have more control over your time.
Here is our best advice for keeping track of your time on the SAT and ACT:
Use an analog (non-digital) watch and before each section begins, reset your watch to 12:00.
Using this method, you do not have to mentally calculate the time remaining before the end of the test. The minute hand will tell you how long you have been working. During the exam, you don’t need to know what hour it is, so you can focus on the minute hand to time each section.
For example, even if your first section is starting at 8:41am, set your watch to 12:00. You’ll know that you have 45 minutes before the end of the section or 12:45 is your stop time. You do not have to mentally remember that 45 minutes after 8:41am is 9:26am. Do not spend your time doing math problems on your watch, save your time and brain power for the test.
Here are the sections and times of each test:
English is 45 minutes
Math is 60 minutes
Reading is 35 minutes
Science is 35 minutes
Optional essay is 40 minutes
Reading is 65 minutes
Writing and Language is 35 minutes
Math No Calculator is 25 minutes
Math Calculator is 55 minutes
Optional essay is 50 minutes
You don’t have to memorize these. The test administrator will announce the time limit before each section begins.
You can purchase a basic analog watch on Amazon for less than $20. Here are two options that would work well:
Analog Watch #1
Analog Watch #2
You want to look for an analog watch that has minutes marked on the watch face, like this one (pictured).
When you are doing practice tests, you should monitor your time and pace yourself. Proper pacing and being aware of how much time you have in each section is an important part of being successful on the ACT and SAT. If you would like help with pacing, and other test taking strategies, please contact us. Our tutors are experts who will personalize the tutoring sessions to your needs.
SAT policy: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/taking-the-test/test-day-checklist
ACT policy: https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/test-day.html