David Recine

Pacing and Timing Yourself on Praxis Core Math

When you take the Praxis, it often feels like time is not your friend. Paradoxically, worrying about “beating the clock” during the exam can make your timing and your performance worse. If you’re constantly checking your remaining time and stressing over how long it takes you to complete each problem, the added strain can cause you to fall behind.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, with the right strategies, you can work with the time limits on the Praxis rather than having time work against you. In this post, we’ll look at some ways you can make good use of the time you’re given in Praxis Core Math. These tips will help you devote your mental energy to calculating the answers to problems, not calculating the countdown to zero.


Know and understand the general time limit

Stressing over time during the exam is bad, so you’ll want to gain an understanding of your time limit well before test day.

You have 56 questions that must be completed in 85 minutes.  On its face, this ration means you have about 1 minute and 30 seconds to complete each question. Realistically though, the time-per-question more nuanced than that. 90 seconds per question would leave you with no time to go back and check your answers. Giving yourself 85 seconds per question will give you five minutes or so to check your work. But 80 seconds per question is still fairly realistic and is the best target to aim for. If you can average 80 seconds (1 min. 20 sec.) for every question, you’ll have 10 minutes of time left over at the end of the exam—a very comfortable buffer zone to check your work.

Of course it’s also important to remember that not all questions are created equal, in terms of the time they take to complete. Praxis Core has multiple choice questions with one correct answer, multiple choice questions with more than one correct answer, and “constructed response” questions where you key in the answer yourself. Multiple answer questions and “constructed response” questions where you often take more time to complete.

Questions that are more difficult for you personally may also take longer to complete. Some test-takers may be slower with geometry, or stats, or fraction-based calculations, and so on. This is another good reason to aim for 80 seconds per question on average—you’ll have a full 10 extra minutes to cover problems that you simply can’t complete in just 1:20.


Get good at mental math, but also know when to use the calculator or write out your answer

As Peter mentions in an earlier post, you should use the Praxis Core Math on-screen calculator as little as possible. Mental math, when you’re able to do it, will always be faster than the calculator. As you prepare for the exam, use mental math techniques as often as possible. If you can, reach a point where you can do every type of Core Math problem in your head. This is not as hard as it sounds, because you can often use mental math to estimate an answer and select the answer choice that’s closest to your estimation.

But also be aware of your own limitations. Once test time arrives, be ready to recognize the times when mentally calculating an answer will take a little too long; there are bound to be a few times when using the calculator is the quickest route to the right answer.


Save time by not overthinking

Praxis Core Math loves to bombard students with unnecessary information. Overthinking unimportant data is probably the biggest “time eater” in Core Math.  Take this question below (from ETS’ official online Praxis Core Math practice test):

  • Sarah rolls a fair, six-sided number cube, numbered 1 through 6, five times and rolls a 3, 4, 1, 4, and 4 in that order. What is the probability that she will roll a 4 on her sixth roll?

On this and many other questions, the Praxis is testing your ability to weed out irrelevant information. Because Sarah is rolling just one dice, and the cube is “fair” (not rigged to favor a specific side), each individual roll can has its own odds. You don’t actually need to know how many times she rolled the dice before, or what the results were. All you need to know is that the dice has 6 sides, and 1 side displays a four. Ergo, the odds of rolling a four are 1 in 6.

This is common in many other problem types too. There will be geometry questions that only ask you about one line or angle in a larger shape, statistics and algebra questions where just one of the variables is key to the answer, answer choices that can be eliminated at a glance, and so on.


The takeaway

Simply aiming for a set amount of average time per question can help you use your time efficiently and effectively. But alone, that’s not enough. Be aware of the best practices for saving time on Core Math, in terms of mental math techniques, rules for when to use the calculator, and the elimination of unnecessary information.



  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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