Understanding when and how to guess on the SAT is a fundamental strategy in SAT preparation. Savvy students know the system is designed to discourage guessing – a student receives one point for a correct answer, -1/4 of a point for an incorrect answer, and 0 points for a question that is left blank. Despite the scoring system, there are cases in which guessing may lead to a higher SAT score but misleading information has perpetuated guessing strategies that can sometimes hurt rather than help SAT test takers.
In an effort to help students better prepare for the SAT exam, Veritas Prep, the largest global provider of test prep and admissions consulting services, released a video highlighting tips and strategies for determining when you should guess during the SAT.
Here are a few key tips from the video:
DON’T guess if you can only eliminate one potential answer
Most SAT test prep courses will teach you that in cases where you can eliminate at least one answer, you should guess by randomly choosing from the four remaining answers because you have a 25 percent chance of guessing correctly. This is a popular strategy because it is often easy to eliminate one answer choice. But tactic assumes that you’ll be able to truly guess at random and without bias.
“Truly random” is where the problem lies with this logic. A completely random guess is impossible since we are all subject to our own biases. Even your computer can’t select choices at complete random (yes, this goes for your iTunes playlist as well – the algorithm used was created by the bias mind of a human programmer!).
When guessing, human nature will make you more inclined to choose one answer over another, and this is where you might fall victim to SAT traps. These seemingly correct answers appear throughout the test and may sway your “random” selection.
DO guess if you can eliminate two potential answers
As mentioned above, eliminating one answer on an SAT question can be easy – eliminating a second possible answer is where the thinking comes in, and when your score goes up. That is why SAT prep experts at Veritas Prep recommend guessing only when you can eliminate two answer choices.
If you are able to confidently rule out two of the given options, you have about a 33 percent chance of guessing correctly. However, it is important to note that it is still impossible to guess randomly and without bias, which hurts the probability of guessing correctly. So, while guessing is recommended in these cases, it’s important to eliminate as much bias as possible when making your answer choice.
The exception to the rule: The student-produced response math section
The one exception to this guessing strategy is in the student-produced response math section. This is the only section on the SAT exam that does not penalize students for providing incorrect answers so it’s to your advantage to always select an answer to the questions in this section, even if you’re unsure of the answer.
If you are completely stumped on a question, see if you can pull a number from the given information in the question. You just may get the answer right, and if you’re wrong, it won’t hurt your overall score.
For more SAT test prep tips and strategies, watch the full video from Veritas Prep here: http://youtube.com/v/Pl-T3UYdt6Q . Veritas Prep provides students with a variety of tools and resources for SAT preparation. To learn more, visit www.VeritasPrep.com.