How To Guess On The ACT / SAT

Flickr user Kirill Kondratyev

Before March 2016, the SAT deducted points for wrong answers. At that time, our advice regarding guessing on the ACT or SAT may have been quite different from the advice we have for you today.

A lot has changed, not just with the format of the SAT but also with the way the scoring is done. One of the biggest and most welcomed changes is that the SAT no longer penalize students for incorrect answers. In light of this change, guessing is now a highly recommended strategy. If you do not know the answer to any question, guessing is far better than leaving it unanswered. Guessing gives helps raise the odds that at least some of the answers will be right. However, there are right and wrong ways to guess.

Yes, there are a few smart guessing strategies that you can use to answer those questions that you do not know the answers to.

Start by Using the Process of Elimination

Using the process of elimination will help to narrow down the available answers, making it easier for you to guess. This requires you to read the question carefully and then check out the options. This is not as difficult as it sounds.

Both the SAT and the ACT test students on topics that have been most likely covered in school, so these are not topics that are totally alien to you. Review the options carefully, try and recollect what you learned and use logic to help you eliminate the wrong answers. Once you remove those from the equation, it will give you fewer options to choose from, increasing your chances of guessing the right answer.

Eliminate Blatantly Incorrect Answers in the Math Section

The key to guessing the right way in the math section is to read each question carefully. For instance, if you have a math question that asks you value of x and also tell you that the value should be greater than zero, you can eliminate any answer that is of negative value. This is because the right answer will have to be positive and higher than zero.

Use logic and reasoning to cross out obviously wrong answers, and you can do it by reading the questions carefully and understanding what it expects you to do. Once you understand the question eliminating incorrect answers becomes easier than you think.

Come Back Later to the Question

Time management is crucial when taking the ACT and SAT. The way the tests are structured gives you very little time to answer each question and this is why practice tests are so very important. When taking practice tests, you have to master the fine art of taking the time you need to read through and understand the question while keeping in mind that you do not have the luxury of time. You have to read fast but carefully. It may sound contradictory but that is the only way to conquer any standardized test.

One strategy that is very effective is to first quickly answer all of those questions that you know the answers to. With that out of the way you can then set about answering the more challenging questions, which you can then answer using the guessing strategy mentioned above. Never attempt answering the difficult questions along with the easy ones. When you do that, you run the risk of taking too much time with one question and running out of time to answer the whole paper. That’s a big mistake that could cost you dearly.

Check Your Answer Sheet Before Moving to the Next Section

Before you decide to move to the next section, check your answer sheet quickly to ensure that all the bubbles are filled in. Remember, there are no penalties for incorrect answer so if you have left a bubble empty, use this opportunity to answer the question quickly.

The key is not to leave any question unanswered in the test. This cannot be emphasized enough. In fact, you have no reason to leave any question blank. If you take the law of averages into consideration, every four questions that you don’t attempt, you are losing one point. Imagine if you did get that one additional point, it would be instrumental in raising your overall score by a single point and in these tests, every point counts.

To Guess Or Not To Guess…

The new SAT structure puts an end to the age-old debate about whether students should or should not guess on the SAT and ACT. With the new scoring format, it is far better to guess than to leave a bubble blank.

Of course, no student ever earned high SAT or ACT scores purely by guessing. You must, absolutely must, put in the necessary effort to prepare for the test and answer enough practice tests. Only use guessing as a complementary strategy.

Interested in seeing how your ACT / SAT scores affect your acceptance odds to any 4-year college in the US? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool.

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