Guessing on the SAT and ACT

No matter how much you study, you’re going to come across some questions on the SAT and ACT that you just can’t figure out in a timely manner. In situations like these, it’s good to have a game plan on how to guess. Neither test penalizes you for guessing, so it’s always recommended to bubble in something! You never know, it may be your lucky day. Here are three guessing strategies that can increase your chances of getting questions correct.


  • Process of Elimination (POE): POE involves working backwards to eliminate answer choices. There’s almost always at least 1 or 2 questions that are easy to spot as obviously wrong, which means you can narrow down your options and increase the probability of guessing correctly.This is probably the most effective guessing technique because you’re able to limit your choices further so that you’ll have a better chance at getting it right. You’ll also probably have a more educated guess. 


  • Pick a letter: You may have heard that you should choose C on any question that you’re not sure of. And this is actually a great strategy! Remember, since these tests have no penalties for bubbling something in and getting it wrong, it’s in your best interest to put something down! You don’t have to choose C, but pick your favorite letter that day and bubble that in on questions you’re unsure of or don’t have time to finish. This is typically a last resort, but it’s definitely a viable option!!


  • Move on and come back later: When you get to a question that stumps you, it’s very common to feel like you just have to get it. This is a good mindset for school, but not so much on the ACT/SAT. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t think you can answer questions in half the time you can afford per question, move on and come back later. For example, on the ACT Reading, you get about 50 seconds per question. If you have no idea what to do within the first 25-30 seconds, then you should probably move on and come back to it later. (You can check out the timing breakdowns for each test here.) Budgeting your time is important, so it’s much better to get one question potentially wrong than not being able to finish several of the last questions. If you use this strategy and run out of time to go back and work on the question, refer back to the 2nd guessing technique! 


On test day, you’re bound to come across some tricky questions. It’s really important that you bubble in something! You’ll have at least a 20-5% chance of getting the question right (even more if you use POE), so having a guessing plan can ease stress and help you use your time wisely.

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