Sat Tip: When to Guess

sattip This suggestion to improve their SAT scores is provided in Veritas Prep byShaan Patel.

Have you been told by a friend, parent or teacher who is best to leave questions blank on the SAT to guess, or leaving blank the questions that will not hurt your SAT score? If so, your adviser is oversimplifying the benefits of questions left blank on the SAT.

Recall how the SAT is scored. SAT raw score is calculated by:
• Add one point for each correct answer.

• Subtract ¼ point for a wrong answer.

• add or subtract no for an answer blank.

If your goal is to accumulate as many points as possible raw score is better not to answer a question you answer correctly. Intuitively, you may think you are best to leave the question blank, as it is likely to answer a question if you guess incorrectly. This is the basis of the advice of his friend, parent or teacher. But there is more to this story.

Big companies test prep believes they know the rest of the story. Many offer a method to say “beats” Sat scoring system.

Guess Standard Strategy

If you can eliminate at least one of five possible answer choices, you must guess at random from the remaining four answer choices. If you can not remove a single response option, you must leave the question blank.


Say a student removes an incorrect response option in each of the 12 questions Sat He is not confident enough, however, by eliminating guess one answer choice, so he decides to leave all 12 questions blank. Its net premium to the 12 questions would be zero.

Now, suppose that B Students also removes a wrong answer option in each of the 12 questions Sat She guesses at random, however, the other four options. Predicts probability that she has a chance of one in four (25 percent) to hit. Therefore, one of the 12 questions that it would incorrectly three nine correctly. She would earn three points for correct answers and lose 2 ¼ by their wrong answers, for a net score of crude +3 / 4.

The strategy used to guess that Student B is more effective in theory. Although both A and B student student could eliminate only one answer choice, Sat 12 questions, student B could achieve higher raw score because she used the strategy of guessing. There is a serious flaw in this strategy, however: The method is supposed to random guessing. Randomness is a difficult concept to understand. Random guessing means that if you are presented with four possible answers, you will get an answer choice without any prejudice, bias, or predisposition. But that is not how any student “guesses” on the SAT.

Your guess is always biased in some way, because there is a tendency to choose an answer and an aversion to others. What worsens even worse is that the College Board is really, really, really good at making bad decisions reply attractive look insecure students, especially in the difficult questions Sat. If you remove the randomness of the equation, the odds of guessing the correct answer are actually less than 25 percent.

Guess Veritas Prep Method

if you can eliminate at least two possible answers on a question, you must guess with as little bias as possible of the remaining answer choices. If you can not eliminate at least two incorrect answer choices, you must leave the question blank.


Say Student C eliminates two incorrect answers in each of the 12 questions Sat. Then try to guess, with the least possible prejudice, from the remaining three response options for each question. Chance predicts that if the random guesses of the three response options in each of the 12 questions, you would have four to eight correct inaccurate. But due to the elimination of prejudice is completely impossible to guess, say C student answers correctly only three nine incorrectly. He would earn 3 points for correct answers and 2 ¼ points of their wrong answers, for a net score of crude +3 / 4. Note that net students raw score of C is the same as the student B. But the student guessing strategy B is impossible because there is no such thing as random guessing. Certainly, Student C has to eliminate two incorrect answer choices in each of the 12 questions, not just one.

Remove prejudice to guess as much as possible. If you believe that the answer to a particular question can not be (B), and they have filled in (B) during the last three questions, you are not eliminating prejudices. If you think the answer to a math question in particular is (C), as it is easily derivable from the question numbers are not eliminating prejudices. To eliminate bias, let your pen land in a letter at random and choose the answer.

Note: For the mathematics Student-Produced Response, there is no penalty for guessing. You must answer all questions in this section of the test.

Shaan Patel is director of programs at Veritas Prep SAT, the author of McGraw-Hill 2400 Sat bestseller in just 7 steps, and the owner of a perfect score Sat

For more tips Sat Veritas Prep, see “perfect score Student Describes the different sections of the SAT”

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