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How to Guess Effectively on the ACT and SAT

There is no penalty for a wrong answer on either the ACT or SAT. A wrong answer adds no points to your score but deducts none either. The only question that you have a zero percent chance of answering correctly is one that you do not answer.


Accordingly, there are times when guessing is not only advisable but absolutely essential to maximizing your ACT or SAT score. However, like every other aspect of the ACT or SAT, guessing requires its own special strategy to be truly effective.


With that in mind, the following strategy will increase the chances of your ACT or SAT guesses being correct.



  1. Narrow your choices

Always begin answering a question by eliminating as many wrong answer choices as possible. Most questions have one obviously-incorrect answer. Cross off this choice immediately. Next, look for choices that contain the types of common ACT/SAT errors that we’ve covered in previous lessons.


You can usually eliminate all but one choice with this method, leaving you with the correct answer by default. At the very least, you should have only 2 choices left, giving you a 50/50 shot at the correct answer.


  1. Move on and come back

Don’t linger on a question if you get stuck between two choices. Move on to the next question and come back to any you are having trouble with after you’ve answered the rest. Remember that all questions in a given section are worth the same number of points. Sinking too much time into a single difficult question will rob you of the opportunity to answer multiple easier ones.


  1. Repeat step 1 on questions you skipped

Once you’ve answered the other questions, take a second crack at the ones that have you stumped. Finding a key detail you overlooked the first time is much easier when you know that you’ve already answered the vast majority of the questions.


  1. If all else fails, pick a letter

If you’ve followed steps 1 through 3 but still have some questions you’ve been unable to eliminate at least one choice for, fill in the same letter for all of these questions. Use the same letter on every section of the ACT or SAT. Whatever you do, do not start randomly filling in letters. Skipping from letter to letter introduces an additional variable and can result in a slightly lower score than sticking with a single letter can.

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