Should you guess on the PSAT, ACT, or SAT?

If you’ve ever taken a standardized test—like the SAT, ACT, or PSAT—you’ve probably encountered some questions that you didn’t know how to answer. When this happens, you should always guess, even if you have no idea which choice is correct.

The previous version of the SAT had what’s known as a “guessing penalty,” meaning points were deducted for any incorrect answer. However, on the tests you’ll take today you do not lose any points for wrong answers, so you should bubble in a response to every question.  

Guessing on the ACT, SAT, or PSAT does two things: it increases your odds of getting a correct answer, and it makes strategic use of your time by letting you focus your energy (and time) on questions that you know how to do.

That said, there are ways to guess strategically. To help you make the most out of your guesses, consider these test-day tips:


  • Use the “letter of the day” strategy.

    Before beginning the test, choose a letter to use for every guess you make. Maybe your letter is “A for Awesome!” or “D for Done!” It doesn’t matter which letter you choose because they are all equally likely to be correct. What does matter is that you are consistent, as you increase your odds of getting a correct answer if you bubble in the same letter every time.

  • Guess if a question becomes time consuming or confusing.

    You should spend time on the questions that you will be able to answer. If you feel like you are spending too much time on any question, guess and move on. While this may seem like you are giving up too easily, what you’re really doing is being strategic. You can always return to those questions later. Strategic test-takers know to spend their time on questions they are likely to answer correctly, not to stubbornly work through a difficult or time-consuming question before they have seen other, potentially easier, questions.

  • Eliminate obviously wrong answers whenever possible.

    In some cases, you can eliminate answer choices with very little effort. For instance, if a math question asks for the solution for x and tells you that x must be greater than zero, eliminate all negative answer choices. Even if you can’t solve the problem, you should guess from the remaining choices.

  • Guess a simple integer for grid-in questions on SAT and PSAT Math.

    If you have enough time and cannot figure out the answer to a grid-in, you can bubble in your favorite integer, like 1 or 2.