guessing on the PSAT ACT SAT

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

If you’ve ever taken a standardized test, be it the SAT, ACT or PSAT, you’ve probably encountered some questions that you weren’t certain how to answer. When that situation arises you have three potential courses of action: panic, leave it blank, or guess. What should you do to maximize your score? You guessed it.

The “guessing penalty” that may have plagued your older siblings or parents is now a thing of the past; neither the ACT, SAT or PSAT deducts points for wrong answers. That means you literally have nothing to lose by bubbling in an answer for 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 precious seconds!) 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:


  • Answer every question on the ACT, SAT or PSAT.

    There is no longer a penalty for guessing on college exams. What this means is that you get a point for a right answer and zero points for either an omitted question or a wrong answer. So why would you ever omit an answer to a question? You shouldn’t.

  • Use the “letter of the day” strategy.

    Before entering the test, choose one letter you will consistently choose 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 randomly guessing a correct answer if you bubble in the same letter every time. Believe it or not, this will save you a lot of time!

  • Guess if a question becomes time consuming or confusing.

    There are numerous questions on the ACT, SAT or PSAT that you will be able to answer, so make sure you give yourself time to work on those. If you feel like you are spending an inordinate amount of time on any one question, it’s time to guess and move on. While this may seem like you are giving up at first, what you’re really doing is being strategic. You can always return to those 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 other, potentially easier, questions have yet to be worked on.

  • 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.

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

    Sure, the odds of guessing the answer to a grid-in have dropped from ¼ on a multiple choice question to approximately 1/14,000, but that’s still greater than zero. Bubble in whatever answer you’ve calculated for the grid-ins you’ve worked on and for those you haven’t, bubble in your favorite integer, like 1 or 2, in the last few seconds of the section once you’ve ensured that all multiple choice questions have been filled in. What do you have to lose?