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Suniti's Advice Corner

Guessing on the SAT and ACT…Is it worth the risk?

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Sun, Sep 28, 2014

best_guessWhen 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

Extreme Attraction

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.

Question Context

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!

Tags: For Students, For Parents, sat, test prep, act, guessing

About Suniti

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Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream PSAT, SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching thousands of students how to maximize their PSAT, SAT and ACT scores for over a decade.

TestRocker is an award-winning PSAT/SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking a diagnostic test, students receive a customized study plan, individualized to their strengths/weaknesses. Students practice and learn concepts through videos. Each of the 2000+ questions on TestRocker is accompanied by a video explanation from Suniti. TestRocker has the largest video library in the world for PSAT/SAT/ACT preparation. 

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