Most standardized tests require maximum production in minimal time from those pushing for the best scores. In fact, the race against the clock adds an additional dimension of complexity to most exams. That’s why your test day preparations should always involve a watch.
Three Steps to Making a Watch Work on Test Day
Step 1. Find a watch; parents are perfect sources of functional if not fashionable wristwatches!
Step 2. Wear a watch.
Step 3. Use a watch… it doesn’t do much good if you don’t look at it!
Analog or Digital?
If my kids are representative of their generation, the ability to read an analog clock is gradually being relegated to the same dustbin of history where we find cobbling and calligraphy. Yet some argue that analog watches make keeping time easier:
With an analog clock you can actually see where time has traveled and where it’s going as it visually passes by numbers or markings. Completely synced as one, there’s a body/time/visual relationship that cognitively helps the mind comprehend the measurement and passage of time. The face of the clock become a visual map.
An argument can surely be made that analog is to digital as data graphs are to data tables: sometimes, we just process images easier than we do numbers. And research supports the idea that in some instances, such as taking notes in class, the old-fashioned analog way beats newfangled digital. But if the significance of the sweep of time represented visually is lost on you, go with a digital watch, assuming one is permitted. Just make sure your watch doesn’t make noise. Smart watches with recording capability are right out.
Timing Test Sections like a Pro
Keeping track of time in a section would be easier if you were allowed to use an actual timer. Unfortunately, testing organizations like the College Board and ACT, Inc. expressly prohibit separate timers. Considering how unprepared some proctors are, they probably don’t need the competition.
But just because you cannot bring a timer on test day doesn’t mean you cannot use your watch as a timer. Just reset your watch at the beginning of each section to make tracking time easier.
Option 1: Set your watch to noon. This makes keeping track of how much time you have left in a section simple, whether you’re using an analog or digital timepiece.
Option 2: If you are using an analog watch, set it to whatever time would end at noon when the section is over. For example, for the 45-minute ACT English section, you could set your watch to 11:15. That way, you could see the big hand ticking closer to your ending time more easily.