Training for Time
Time is of the Essence!
If you’ve read this far, you already have a great foundation for your ACT science approach. You know to ignore the bulk of the information presented to you, you know to cut right to the answer choices, and you know to obsess over the “directionality” of the questions and their answers. There’s just one more thorn in your side that you need to address: the issue of timing.
The time pressure of the ACT science section is 90% of the reason why it seems so tough.
If I gave you ten hours to complete the ACT science section, I could basically guarantee that you’d get a perfect (or near perfect) score. As we’ve already established, there’s no knowledge that you need to conquer this section, so anyone is capable of getting a great score. The reason most students don’t get amazing scores isn’t because they’re “bad scientists” – it’s that they simply can’t find all the requisite information in the extremely limited amount of time that they’re given.
The ACT science section blasts you with an incredible amount of information, asks weird, confusingly worded, trickily answered questions, and then gives you less than a minute per problem to sort everything out. When most students come to me with ACT science problems, timing is about 80% of their trouble.
Fortunately, with enough practice, this is easy to remedy.
You need to attack the timing issue from two fronts:
1) Strategy and efficient utilization of time and attention.
Are you paying attention to the right things? Are you ignoring the rest?
Fortunately for you, the tips and tricks that you just learned are half the battle!
By skipping the bulk of the information provided and getting right to the problems, you’re saving tons of time.
By heading right to the answer choices and using them for insights, rather than “figuring things out on your own,” you’re saving boatloads of time and mental energy.
If you’re running a race on a track, your speed will be vastly enhanced by knowing the right ways to use your legs, keep your balance, and space your footsteps. But at the end of the day, you still need to learn how to run faster. That’s where front two comes into play:
2. Intentionally working under ludicrous time pressure on a constant basis.
Want to get faster at running? Give yourself a time limit, focus only on that time limit, and keep running your heart out until you hit it.
Want to get faster at ACT science? Read the sentence above.
ACT science gives you 35 minutes to solve 40 questions. If you do the math, that’s 52.5 seconds per problem.
Want the best tip in the world for getting faster on ACT science?
From now on, you should NEVER give yourself more than 50 seconds per ACT science problem. On every practice section you do from now on, give yourself a time limit, keep a watch on your wrist, and stick with it no matter what.
Here’s the thing: on the real ACT, I don’t want you to look at your wrist every 25 seconds and constantly try to figure out how much time you have. Doing so would be inefficient and sort of ridiculous.
However, on your practice sections, that’s exactly what I want you to do.
Some questions are naturally going to take a lot less than 50 seconds. Some questions are going to take a bit more. But by practicing in this manner, you’ll start to build a ludicrously ingrained mental clock, which will give you an extremely good idea of how long you’re taking on each problem.
If you spend less than 20 seconds on a few problems in a row, that’s awesome!
Now you have some time “in the bank” to invest in other, tougher problems. However, if you’ve spent more than about 80 seconds on a problem, you NEED to get out of there!
If you think about it, spending 100+ seconds on a problem is exactly the same thing as getting another problem wrong automatically. If you invest all the time you have for problem #40 into problem #13, then you just got problem #40 wrong. Whoops!
Every single problem is worth ONE POINT. It doesn’t matter if it’s easy or hard. So spending too much time on the really tough problems is just a guaranteed way of torpedoing your entire ACT science score.
From this point forward, try applying the key ACT science strategies while limiting your per-problem time to 50 seconds each. Stick with this militantly, and see what it starts doing for your performance.
No matter what, doing this will guarantee that you get to every single problem on the test. Getting to all 40 problems with slightly damaged accuracy will be much better for your score than getting to 28/40 problems with 100% accuracy.
You need to gain the timing experience necessary to reach every problem.
Better yet, you might just find that by forcing yourself to move more quickly, your accuracy actually increases. By giving yourself an artificial time limit, you’ll be honing your focus, centralizing your efficiency, and becoming a better all-around test taker. Well worth the effort, I’d say!
In my online ACT system, Green Test Prep, I go much more in-depth on how you can use this timing strategy to enhance both your number-of-problems-reached and your accuracy and performance. However, for now, just know that by forcing yourself to stay within the time limits, you’ll be giving yourself the ultimate tool in ACT science performance.
You now have all the pieces you need to build an incredible foundation for ACT science success. Now it’s time to put everything together! For that, we’ll move to our next and final section: