Saturday, March 2, 2013

When in doubt, do I Guess or Skip on the SAT?

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Guess or Skip? How and where we invest our time directly affects our SAT scores.

Time is the one resource we are given and we must make the most of it. If there were no time limit, everyone would score higher in every section. It would be way easier to think carefully with out the duress of the clock. It is critical to use the limited time we are given wisely.

All the Math sections of the test start with the easiest questions and become gradually harder until the hardest questions at the end of the section.

A correct answer is worth the same 1 raw point whether it is an easy, medium, or hard question. That is why it is important to slow down and make sure you score on questions you know how to do. Do not waste time on hard questions. You can still get a great score with out them. Easy questions have best rate of return for the relatively small amount of time it takes to do them. There is a limited number of easy questions, so it is important to recognize them as an opportunity to build a strong score.

Scoring is similar to earning $100 for completing a quick and easy task or a difficult time consuming task. If either task is done wrong the penalty is $25. The choice is clear. Slow down and make sure you get all the easy $100 opportunities with out owing $25 for your efforts. With the remaining time, decide which of the harder tasks you can complete and don't worry about the ones you don't get to. There is no reward for completing a whole section, only for accumulating as many raw points with out giving any back. The SAT Math section has 54 total questions. If I skip the harder half of each section and use my extra time to focus on the easier first half of each section, I essentially have twice the time to execute the first half. Slowing down and focusing on the first half of the test is the best way to get them all right. By skipping the harder second half I did not give back any of the points I earned. My raw score is a 27 for the Math. This is about a 500-520 scaled Math score. Not bad for only doing half the test. I never scored in the 50th percentile for doing half of my History test perfectly while omitting the rest.

Once I know that I am not making any silly mistakes, I begin to take on more of the test. My next goal would be  of each section, then ¾ and so on. Never attempt more questions until you are sure you are not needlessly giving points away.

It is best to get two or less questions wrong…

A total of two wrong on the multiple choice in any of the three sections on the SAT means that a ½ a raw point will be subtracted from the raw score. For example, a raw score of a 30 would then become a 29.5. Raw scores are rounded to whole numbers. This means a 29.5 becomes a 30 and no points were lost. If three mistakes were made the 30 would become a 29.25 which would then be rounded down to a 29.

When skipping problems, mark them on the test with a symbol that let's you know whether you want to attempt it later with your remaining time. That way you don't have to waste time rereading every skipped problem. I like to use a star to revisit a problem and a question mark to avoid a problem. I know that feeling good is important to performing well. I do not think, "I should know how to do that" when I skip a problem. Instead, I think, "Glad I caught that giant waste of time and effort early. Now I can use this extra time to make sure I get easier problems right." Be your own biggest fan and keep practicing. Contact WaveLength if you want to learn more about this and other test strategies. Keep practicing and good luck!


  1. I always tried guessing on the questions because my parents said not to skip. Now i know to skip the ones i can't do on my own.

  2. Skipping is better on the SAT. Don't leave things blank on school tests

  3. good tip to know i can skip instead of guessing on the questions i don't know

  4. Yes, educated guessing is better than leaving things blank on the ACT but a poor strategy on the SAT.

  5. This,article is so helpful for all those who are preparing for SAT.I ile they will get clear guidance about in which subject they need to invest their time in order to score good.

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