Managing time and stress on the ACT and SAT

Time and stress ACT and SAT

Every student will have to take either the ACT or SAT before applying to college, and almost every student who takes these tests struggles with time management or stress at some point.  

Stress and time management can hinder students who would otherwise master the test. It can be frustrating knowing that time and stress are holding you back and preventing you from showing your true academic talents. 

So how do you manage all of that stress? How do you manage your time?

Here are some of the best ways to manage time and minimize stress on the ACT and SAT. 

Overcoming stress and time BEFORE the ACT and SAT: 

  • Bring plenty of snacks and stay hydrated 
  • Before the start of any test take a few minutes to relax and clear your mind 
  • Make sure you have all the necessary materials (pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, calculator for the math section) 
  • Make sure to sleep early the night before and set an alarm the day of the test

Overcoming stress and time DURING the ACT and SAT

 Reading and Grammar 

  • When starting a section take around 30 seconds to one minute per question 
  • For the reading section take notes on the side while reading the passage 
  • Take notes according to key ideas and main points that you notice 
  • During breaks avoid possible distractions 
  • Read questions carefully: multiple choice is tricky!
  • Always mark each question even if you’re unsure of the answer you selected
  • Use process of elimination (choose the best answer)
  • For the vocabulary section choose what fits the best and makes the most sense in the flow of the sentence 
  • Read it through, does it make sense?


  • Use your calculator for the permitted section to double check answers to see if they match the ones that are given 
  • Do the questions you feel the most comfortable with first before attempting those more challenging 
  • Show your work! Even though you’re not graded for it helps your thought process by writing on the test itself. 
  • Flip through the section before starting to understand the content being asked ahead of time
  • Use process of elimination  
  • Take around 2-3 minutes per question (depending on the level of difficulty)
  • Bring a watch to check your timing
  • For the questions toward the end that are free response don’t worry about these until the end 
  • Look at graphs closely 


  • Read the prompt thoroughly 
  • Identify the main topic 
  • Annotate the text and write down key ideas in the margins
  • Refer to the text as often as possible within your paragraphs
  • Keep your ideas concise and clear 
  • Begin with a strong hook and end with a strong conclusion 
  • Check the fluidity of your paragraphs and check for run on sentences.
  • Have a concrete thesis statement
  • Don’t include your own personal opinion when writing

Check out the links below for more tips!