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How to Guess Smarter

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In a perfect world, when you sit down to take the ACT or SAT, you’ll understand every question and be able to figure out every correct answer. But let’s face it: this isn’t a perfect world and you’re probably not going to achieve a perfect score. But that doesn’t mean you can’t earn a very good score – even if you don’t actually know all of the answers.

Use the tips that follow to bridge the gap between what you know and what you can figure out:

1. Eliminate as many wrong answers as you can. On the ACT, there’s no penalty for guessing, so guess away, even if you can’t throw out any of the answers. However, the more wrong choices you eliminate, the better your odds of guessing correctly. On the SAT, you should only make a guess if you can eliminate one or more wrong choices. Trying to guess from five possible answers means you only have a 20% chance of guessing correctly, and with a ¼ point deduction for wrong answers, you’ll end up breaking even, so there’s no point at all (pun intended).

2. Don’t guess if the odds are against you. On the SAT, the odds of randomly guessing a Grid-In answer correctly are 1 in 14,400. So while there isn’t penalty for a wrong answer on this portion, there isn’t much promise of a reward, either. Your time would be better spent working out a problem you understand a little better or double-checking your answers on other questions.

3. If the answer looks right on a hard question, don’t fall for it. For both the ACT and SAT, there are easy, medium, and hard questions. The hard questions are designed to trick you. If you quickly read the question and skim the answers, there will probably be an answer that seems obviously right. It’s not! Read the question carefully and make sure you understand what it’s really asking for. Once you understand it better, eliminate the wrong answers and narrow down the possibilities as much as you can before guessing.

4. Skip it if you’re clueless. Did you ever come across a question on a practice test that made so little sense to you it could have been written in Greek? Rather than spending valuable time rereading the question and trying to understand what it’s asking, skip it. You’ll have a better chance of guessing correctly on an easier question, which is worth exactly the same amount of points as a hard question. If you have time at the end, come back to this toughie and see if you can make sense of it with fresh eyes.

By following these tips, you may be able to improve your score without actually spending any more time studying the material or learning new information. But that isn’t to say you should spend less time studying. Having a thorough understanding of the content in the SAT and the ACT is hands down the best way to get a high score.

Test Prep Academy is the premier SAT/ACT services company for high school students. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT. Learn more about how we help prepare students for the ACT.

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