The Secret to ACT Pacing

Published on Monday, February 5th, 2018 by

Mini-tests can be a powerful tool to develop student time-management skills. While one full-length ACT at the outset of a prep class can be very beneficial, it does not leave much room for coaching. By the end of the test, students are exhausted. They don’t remember what happened or what they were thinking at the beginning of the test. It’s an assessment, not a coaching opportunity.

On top of test fatigue, full-length tests also tend to reinforce whatever attitude students bring to the test. If they believe they are “bad” at the ACT and trying is pointless, then they will struggle the entire time to get questions right on a long test, and by the end, they will have only confirmed their original belief. This is, of course, extremely discouraging.

Much better for our purposes of test prep is the mini-test: a small segment timed exactly at the pace you want your students to achieve, with coaching immediately afterward on relevant test-taking techniques, time management, and content. A mini-test allows you to remediate immediately, thus building up confidence instead of breaking it down. It closes the feedback loop that is all too often left wide open in ACT prep .

Here’s How It Works

What: A mini-test is a portion of a full-length ACT test section. For example, a mini-test might be one Science passage and the seven questions that go with it.

How: Administer the mini-test under timed conditions. If students are new to mini-testing, you should provide verbal cues to help students understand whether they are on track. (Example: “Two minutes have passed. You should be on question 3.” or “Your time is halfway up. You should be halfway through the questions.”)

A best practice is to gradually reduce the verbal cues until students keep the correct pace without any cues at all. Students should complete the mini-tests using the following paces:

English: 8 minutes per mini-test
Math: 1 minute per question
Reading: 8 minutes per mini-test
Science: 5 minutes per mini-test

Practice makes permanent, so it is essential that students participate in the mini-tests the same way they want to perform on the ACT. They should apply all of the strategies they have learned. They should imagine they are actually in an ACT testing environment.






Used correctly, mini-tests can pave the road to better time management and better scores.