When it comes to test prep students often spend hours studying to ensure that they are not surprised by any of the content on the test. Even with all the time dedicated to studying, it is impossible to predict which questions you will encounter. It is highly likely that there will be a few questions that you just do not know the answer to…that’s where guessing comes into play.
The risk associated with guessing differs depending on whether you are taking the SAT or ACT. The ACT has no guessing penalty, so here students may feel less apprehension about guessing. The SAT does have a guessing penalty. While students who guess correctly will only reap the benefits, those who guess incorrectly will lose 1/4th of a point. On the ACT, we advise our students to guess when they cannot figure out how to solve the problem or when time is running out. On the SAT, students should only guess when they are able to eliminate a few answers. Below are our tips for guessing smart on test day.
Tips for Guessing Smart
Take note of the highest and lowest value listed amongst your math answer choices. Do the same when it comes to sentence completion questions. For each of these questions the CollegeBoard often includes extreme answers to throw you off. If you haven’t been able to eliminate any responses and plan to guess, be sure to go with the answer that is the median between the two extremes.
Units of Measurement
On math questions units of measurement will often be used. Before you guess, double check that the provided answer choices have the unit of measurement that is being requested in the question. Eliminate any choices that are not in the correct unit of measurement.
You should depend on question direction and question tone to help you guess more effectively. The questions themselves often contain hints that you can use to find the answer. Look for these if you are ever stuck on a question.
On the english sections, you will be required to put your vocabulary to use. If you’re being asked to find the opposite of a negative word, it makes sense to eliminate any words that have a negative connotation.
On the math section, skim the question to figure out whether your final answer should be a bigger or smaller value than the values provided in the question. Should your final answer be negative or positive? Will it be an exponent? Polynomial function? Or an integer? The answers to these questions should guide you throughout your process of elimination.
Ultimately with the right amount of preparation you should be able to make educated guesses on the test.
If you're having trouble deciding on which test date to prepare for, read our blog on picking the right test date!