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Why You Must Not Guess the Answers On The SAT

April 05, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 146

The standardized test for college admissions is also known as the SAT and is one of the most important tests a high school student will take in the United States. It covers three sections: Critical Reading, Writing and Mathematics, each of which is worth 800 points for a total of 2400 points. The average score is around 1509. As the test covers a lot of ground, there are likely to be questions that you simply don't know the answers to. In a normal test, the solution is to take a wild guess. However, the SAT has a nasty surprise for those who rely on guesswork: Points are deducted for getting answers wrong as a means of discouraging the act of relying on guesswork.


On each section, a point is added to your raw score every time you get a question right. However, you lose 1/4 of a point for every incorrect answer. In certain question types, this penalty is increased to 1/3 of a point. These scores are added up, rounded off to the nearest integer and appear as the scaled score you normally see (out of 800). The test makers have designed the SAT so that random guessing is severely punished. In fact, it is estimated that if you were to guess every single question on the SAT, you would end up with a score of around 680 which is in the bottom 0.5% of all SAT takers.

If 680 is your score when guessing questions with five possible answers, what will your score be if you definitely knew that one of the answers was wrong? This is slightly better but you are still taking the test despite not knowing any of the answers. It is estimated that your SAT score would be 810 if you guessed in this manner. This puts you in the bottom 1% of the population, hardly college material! If you were guessing from three possible answers (if you knew that two answers were wrong), your average score would rise to 980, better than around 4% of SAT takers. If you were guessing between two answers, the average score suddenly becomes 1270, better than 22% of the population.


Remember, the easiest questions are always at the beginning with the most difficult questions at the end of each section. In fact, you can easily be tricked at the end of each section because test makers are known for including 'trap answers'. They look correct but if you took the time to think about them for a second, it would be obvious that the answer was something else. This is effectively another way to punish students who guess.

In summation, the SAT is not a test that bodes well for people who guess. It comes down hard on those who don't put in the effort and rewards conscientious students. An exception to the rule on guessing comes with student produced response questions. These are not multiple choice questions so there is no penalty for getting an answer wrong. When answering multiple choice questions on the SAT, do not answer a question unless you have a maximum of two possible answers (this can simply mean you have eliminated three of the five). It is not worth the penalty for guessing when there are three or more possible answers. Using the process of elimination and educated guessing is fine, blindly answering questions is not.

Jason Kay recommends taking a sample SAT test to become more familiar with the test format.

Source: EzineArticles
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