On almost every multiple choice test you will take there is an advantage to random guessing (including on the ACT). Let’s say there is a 100 point multiple choice test on polynomials. Wendy doesn’t know polynomials. She’s never seen them before: So she randomly guesses. If there are 5 answer choices she would get 1 out of 5 right (20 questions right for 20% on the test). If she left the test blank she would have gotten a zero, so there is a clear advantage to her taking those guesses.
Now if Wendy was taking the SAT and still guesses randomly the “guessing penalty” would cancel out those questions she guessed right so she would get a zero. Nothing gained or lost from guessing except time.
However if she were able to eliminate at least one answer or uses a guessing technique (such as guessing based on the difficulty of the question…more on that in an upcoming post) she would have an advantage to guess.
For more details on this check out these posts on the topic:
To Guess or Not: Spark Notes provides a clear explanation of guessing on the SAT
Guessing Penalty on its last legs? SAT Tutors Blog discusses the nixing of the guessing penalty in the AP exam and the possibility of getting rid of it for the SAT.
Anybody’s Guess: A discussion of guessing complete with a chart on the bottom of how you will score if you can eliminate a certain number of choices.
Or if you are waiting for the math:
We are used to thinking in terms of tests out of 100%. The SAT is not one of those tests but if Wendy took a 100 point test with a guessing penalty, this is how she would score:
Eliminating no choices would give her a 0%The formula is # right minus # wrong*.25. Or in better math terminology if r is the number right and w is the number wrong and s is the score: S=R-W*.25
20 right minus 80*.25=0
Eliminating one choice would give her a 6.25%
25 right minus 75*.25=6.25
Eliminating two choices would giver her a 16.25%.
33 right minus 67*.25=16.25
Eliminating three choices would giver her a 37.5%
50 right minus 50*.25=37.5%
Eliminating four choices would give her 100% correct. These scores for guessing look really low, but remember two things: 1. If she didn’t guess she would have a zero. 2. The results are used to compare you to others. Since everyone else has the same penalty or lack of a guessing advantage the test is “fair” in this regard at least.
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