Guessing and Time Management on the SAT and ACT
Most students will run into time management issues on the SAT or ACT, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to do when the proctor calls “Five minutes remaining!” and you’ve got a significant number of questions remaining. Here, I’ll offer advice on what to do if you’re running out of time.
Should You Guess on Questions You Don’t Get To?
Yes! On both the SAT and the ACT, you’re awarded credit only for questions you answer correctly. That means that it’s to your advantage to guess on the questions you don’t have the time to answer. This brings me to a common piece of advice I often hear, one which I’d like to dispel.
Is “C” the Best Answer Choice to Guess?
Absolutely not! Sometimes it seems like “C”—or its equivalent, “H”—is the most common answer choice, but this is merely a myth. In fact, the answer choice orders on the ACT and SAT are generated by a computer and are entirely random. Perhaps you’ve had teachers who design their tests by hand and who, although they try to be random, aren’t truly random. A computer, however, is quite reliable when it comes to generating random numbers. Still, though, there’s an important piece of advice when it comes to guessing on questions you haven’t got time for…
Pick a Letter and Stick with It
It doesn’t matter whether or not the letter you choose as your “go-to” letter for bubbling in random answers is “C” or not. It does matter, though, that you’re consistent with the letter you choose. Pick all “A,” for example, or all “B.”
Why is this? If you picked random letters, or bubbled in a pattern, perhaps you’ll get all of the questions correct. The probability of doing so, however, is next to nothing. In terms of increasing your odds of guessing the correct answer to a question, you’re much better off picking the same letter. Since the answer choices are sorted by a computer algorithm, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get 25% (or 20%, depending on if there are four or five answer choices) of the questions you on which you bubble in random answers correct.
To sum it all up: definitely guess on questions you don’t have time for on the SAT and ACT, “C” is as good of an answer choice as any, but not the best, and pick a letter that you like and stick with it!
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