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ACT Tip of the Week: Guessing Strategies

Have you ever heard the expression, "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good?" Unfortunately, luck has very little to do with how well you will do on the ACT. But, there are steps you can take to make sure that your "guesses" have the best chance to be correct.

First, a few myths that need to be exposed:

Myth 1: You get penalized for filling in wrong answers.

There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT.

Never, ever, ever, leave any answers blank. You have a 25% chance of getting the question right if you guess. So at the very least, always guess!

Myth 2: C is the best guess letter and is right more often than any other letter.

C or H are right (and wrong) as often as any other answer choice. The only guess letter you don't want to use when you are completely guessing is E or K because they only show up on the math test.

Ok, myths exposed, let's move on to how and when to guess.

1) Blind-guessing: If you run out of time, always guess the same guess letter.

The ACT uses the letters A, B, C, D, E and F, G, H, J, K for alternating questions. Before test day, choose your favorite guess letter and be prepared to bubble down that column on the score sheet right before time runs out. For example, if your favorite guess letter is C, you would bubble in the C and H column before time runs out.

If you come across a question that you have no clue how to solve (this is especially true on math), go with your guess letter and move on to get other questions right. However, if you can eliminate at least 1 answer choice, don't go with your guess letter. Instead, go with the answer choice that your gut feels is the most logical answer.

2) Trend Guessing: Don't worry about patterns or trends with your answers. I can't tell you how many students change an answer because they think they have gotten too many As or Cs. Treat each question as a completely new situation. There is no rhyme or reason (let alone pattern) to the correct answers. Instead of looking for patterns, focus on choosing the answer that seems right.

3) Educated Guessing: There are often logical guesses you can make based on the information provided with a question -- even if you don't exactly what the right answer is by making a logical guess you give yourself the best chance to get it right.

The math section of the ACT exam often provides visuals with the word problems. If you don't know how to solve the problem mathematically, try to make an educated guess based on the visual image provided. For example,

Don't stress if you don't remember how to calculate slope. If you look at the problem, you should notice that the line is going down. Hopefully, that would be enough for you to guess that the correct answer is either A or B because they are both negative (For those keeping score, the correct answer is B). If you can narrow the choices down to A and B, you go from having a 20% of guessing the right answer to having a 50% chance of getting it right, which can make the difference between a good score and a goal score.

On English and Reading, look for trends in the answer choices. If two answers are essentially the same, eliminate both of them and then make an educated guess with the remaining two choices.

Finally, the science test is all about making educated guesses. When in doubt, focus on the highest or lowest answer available, choose the answer with the key word that shows up the most often in the background passage, or guess based on the trends revealed in the graphs and charts.


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