Is It Okay to Guess on the SAT?
It’s a common question – Is it really okay to guess on the SAT? The good news is the SAT test is about reasoning and logic, not memorization and regurgitation. It contains many strategic questions that you can answer regardless of your academic background, although knowledge of certain concepts and skills is essential.
One part of your strategic approach should definitely be guessing. Yes, you read that right – guessing is okay. In fact, you should never leave a question blank. The old SAT penalized students 1/4 point for each wrong answer, in order to discourage random guessing. However, the redesigned SAT has removed this penalty, making it always in your best interest to guess where you truly have no idea what the answer is. Moreover, the number of multiple-choice answer options has decreased from five to four. Not only does this improve your chances of guessing correctly if you don’t know an answer (25% instead of 20%); it means you won’t have to spend as much time reviewing each option.
When guessing, do not do it impulsively. Instead, use the following tips to wisely guide your guess.
- Eliminate Answers That Are Obviously Wrong
- Whittle down your choices by eliminating answers that are clearly wrong, such as ones that contain punctuation or grammatical errors.
- Stick With Your First Choice
- Study after study shows that your first guess is most often your best guess. Avoid changing your answer unless you are confident you made a mistake. Go with your first instinct and stick with that answer.
- Listen to Logic
- The reading passages on the SAT are from real science and history texts. If you are somewhat knowledgeable on the topic, use that knowledge when selecting an answer. If an answer doesn’t seem sensible, you can probably rule it out as illogical.
- Go Random Strategy
- Students will often eliminate two answers, and then when faced with the two remaining answers, pick the one that “feels right” or the one that “sounds good.” You may think you’re making an “educated guess,” but the reality is that you’re falling for a trap answer, which the College Board has included precisely because it sounds vaguely right. If you can’t find a reason to pick one answer over another, go random. Gut feelings are not enough. You actually have a better chance of getting a question right by randomly picking “A” every time (or your favorite letter), versus picking an answer that “feels good.” On the other hand, if an answer “makes sense” logically then, by all means, pick it!
- Run the Numbers
- When uncertain on math questions, it can be helpful to plug all possible answers into the equation. If you have the time, this plug-in strategy can be effective for eliminating choices in order to make the best possible guess.
Remember, taking an educated guess is a solid strategy. If the answer isn’t staring you directly in the face, take a moment and run through the tips above. With those tips, you can try your luck without the stress of deducted points. So if you’re stuck, remind yourself – Yes, it’s okay to guess!