The eXaminator comes in blue or black, and is available for $34.95 at www.examinator.com. The cheapest shipping option (ground) is a whopping $8.50, bringing the total to $43.45 for one watch. The eXaminator can be used for many different standardized tests, but I will focus on the SAT, since this is an SAT blog.
First impression: the eXaminator doesn’t win any style points. It’s men’s size, generic, and has a plastic band. But that’s what we want – function over form. The display is easy to read – that’s important. You need two hands to set it – I had trouble with the buttons when using one hand.
I tested the features rather thoroughly, but I won’t bore you with the details of that. Those features (in Test Mode) include a vibrating alarm, which not only activates at the end of the set interval, but can also be set to activate midway or even at each quarter of the time period.
The alarm always activates when there are 10 minutes remaining, which can be annoying/confusing. For example, if you choose the “1/2” option for a 25 minute section, the alarm will activate when there are 12.5 minutes remaining, and again 2.5 minutes later.
The watch indicates which question you should have reached (more on this later). There is also a function that tells you how much time you have left to finish the question you’re currently working on, but as will become evident, this is useless.
One issue is that you must reset the timer if sections have different time limits. On the SAT, most of the sections take 25 minutes, and you won’t have to reset. However, the last few sections are shorter. Often, there is no break between sections, and you don’t want to waste even a few seconds to set a timer. Many proctors give you a few seconds between sections, but I’d feel rushed with a 10 second limit.
Note that the SAT rules specifically forbid a timer (or any foreign object) on your desk. Different proctors enforce this differently (e.g. many will allow snacks), but with a watch you won’t have to worry.
You can use the eXaminator as a regular watch, or as an alarm watch (but it only vibrates – no sound).
I have an issue with the eXaminator, but it’s not with the watch itself, but rather with the advertising. Moving past the hyperbole on the packaging (“Crush! the new SATs”; “Never run out of time!”), the vendors claim that the watch indicates “the question number you should have reached” at any time during the test. Of course, this presupposes that all questions require the same length of time to solve (for all students). This issue is addressed in the FAQ that’s found in the instructions:
2. What if the test questions are of all different lengths – will I get off pace?
Standardized tests such as the SAT work hard to have the questions all take approximately the same amount of time. They are careful not to put especially long questions at the end of the test, which could create pacing problems. Though eXaminator can only give an approximate question number you should have reached, students who are consistently at or ahead of this pace have no problem finishing standardized tests on time.
First of all, if the watch can only give you an approximate question number, why bother with its feature that tells you the time left on the current question?
But what’s really shocking is that the company’s statement about all questions taking the same time is rubbish, at least as far as the Math sections are concerned. The questions are arranged in order of difficulty, and of course they take longer to solve as they get harder. Often a good student can solve the earliest questions in a few seconds, but may take several minutes to get through some of the hard ones. The problem is not as pronounced on the other sections, but Critical Reading questions take longer than Sentence Completions, if for no other reason than it takes time to read the passages!
The best solution is for the student to use the watch during practice tests and become familiar with his own pacing. For example, he may eventually conclude that he needs to finish the 13th question at the halfway mark in order to finish the section. But the sections vary (e.g. there are math sections with 16, 18, and 20 questions). Furthermore, not every student aims to finish each section. It’s better to do your best on 17 questions (and quickly guess the rest) than to rush through all 20.
Given the complicated nature of the current SAT, there is no timer on the market that can effectively address these problems. That doesn’t mean timers are useless, but you shouldn’t be deceived by false claims.
This product is “just okay.” Its performance and features are somewhat clunky, and the question counting feature is all but useless on the Math sections. For a little over $30 shipped, you can buy a vibrating Timex watch that looks better and does a lot more. However, the eXaminator can be set to vibrate midway through each section, and the question feature will be more useful on the verbal sections. It’s your call.