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Increasing Your Speed In The Quantitative Section

One of the trickiest parts of the quantitative section - and the exam in general - is managing your time right. Most of the questions on the quantitative section are manageable, once you’ve learned the right methodology and tools. The problem, as most students quickly find out, is getting through these questions in the short amount of time allotted you.

There’s a deceptively simple but also incredibly powerful methodology I use with my students, and I’d like to use it with you. This method works not only for the SAT but the ACT, GRE, GMAT, and any other standardized test with a quantitative section. Here’s how it works:

SAT Maths section

Set an amount of questions you want to get correct on the section. This amount should be somewhat above your current state, but not so much above that you get frustrated.

So for example, if you’ve been getting 8 questions out of a 20-minute section, you might choose your goal to be 11 correct answers.

Now, when you do that section, your ONLY goal is to answer 11 questions correctly. It’s not to answer as many questions correctly as possible, or to get through as many questions as you can, or to finish the section as quickly as possible. You should be solely focused on answering these 11 questions correctly.

SAT Maths section

Once you’re hitting your goal fairly regularly, up the ante. Move it up: your new goal might be to answer 13, 14, or even 15 questions correctly in that same time frame.

Don’t be overly ambitious in your goal, or you might end up frustrated and give up the whole thing entirely. Progress in baby steps. There’s a fairly simple reason why this method works: it cuts through the noise. There are many reasons why students get bogged down on the time aspect of this section. Often, they’re still stuck in high school mentality: they’re trying to solve each question systematically, by working through each step of the process. Instead of using the methods which help one work through things faster on the exam - like estimating instead of calculating, or using process of elimination - they’re going through each step of the process.

SAT Maths section

Or, they might be getting bogged down in the difficult questions, even though the easy questions are worth the same amount of points. They feel guilty about skipping questions, and so are missing out on easy points.

This process cuts through that. The reason is because here, you have a highly specific, solidly defined goal: get those 11 questions correct. My students usually have a vague goal in mind when they sit for their sessions - get as many questions correct as possible, as quickly as possible. As good as that sounds, there’s a huge problem: that goal is vague, and it’s difficult to work with.

If your goal is to get 11 questions correct, do everything you need to do to reach it. If it means breezing through time-consuming get easy points, great. If it means developing more finely-tuned intuition, and understanding which answers are obviously not a fit, fantastic.

The second reason it works is because it’s gradual. Slowly you move up to 12, and then to 14, until you eventually reach your ultimate goal.

SAT Math section

As you continue using this method, you’ll see that you’ll develop much healthier, faster, and more efficient methods. The reason will be that you don’t have a choice. You’ll be forced to start using educated guesses, because working out the entire problem simply isn’t possible if you need to attain those 11 correct answers. You don’t have time to spend on time-consuming questions, so you’ll develop the habit of marking an answer for them, and saving them for last - as you should.

Fairly regularly - at least a few times a week - you should implement this study method. Sit for a certain section and try to fulfill your current goal. If you see that you’re consistently hitting it, add a little more pressure and up the number a little bit. I guarantee your speed will go through the roof.

Happy learning! Tova


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