# How to Guess on a Test

29-09-2017, 14:00
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If you're stumped on a hard test question, guessing strategically can improve your chances of choosing the right answer. Look for context clues throughout the test that can help you with a tricky problem. Choose answers that seem familiar, even if it's just a subtle feeling of deja vu. Look for patterns in true or false questions, and go with false if a question includes absolutes, such as "all" or "none." When guessing on multiple choice questions, use processes of elimination, look for grammatical clues and, when in doubt, go with the most detailed choice.

### Guessing on True or False Tests

1. Answer the questions you know first. You’ll obviously want to answer as many questions as possible without running out of time. In addition, knowing the right answers to the questions above and below a tricky true or false problem can help you find a pattern. Guessing based on a true or false pattern is better than just guessing randomly.
2. Choose the opposite answer if the surrounding answers are the same. Suppose you know the answers above and below a tricky question are both true. Chances are, the correct response to the tricky question is false. There is a low probability that the same correct response will appear three times in a row.
3. Guess false if there’s an absolute modifier. Absolute modifiers are words that don’t allow for exceptions, such as all, everyone, never, and always. There aren’t many things that always happen without any exceptions, so questions that have absolutes are usually false.
• When a question with an absolute modifier is true, it’s often a well-known, common sense fact that doesn’t make for a good test question.
4. Guess true if you see words like some, most, or a few. In-between words, as opposed to absolutes, are more likely to be true. If a statement allows for exceptions, it’s more probable that it’s true at least some of the time.
• Other in-between words include usually, often, seldom, and frequently.
5. Choose true if you’re totally stumped. Go with true if none of the other true/false tips apply, and you have no clue what the answer is. Recalling a fact is easier than inventing a falsehood, so test makers tend to include more true answers than false.
• For instance, if you’re stumped on a question with no absolute or in-between modifiers, and if the answer above is true and the one below is false, your best bet is to go with true.

### Guessing on Multiple Choice Tests

1. Make a guess before looking at potential answers. When you first read a question, try not to look at the choices or cover them with your hand. Try to make a guess off of the top of your head. Then, read the choices and see if any of them are close to your guess.
2. Eliminate outliers and the highest and lowest numbers. Rule out choices that are funny, obviously wrong, or seem totally out of left field. If the possible answers are numbers, rule out the highest and lowest choices, then guess between the options left in the middle range.
3. Look for grammatical clues. It might seem like a no brainer, but a test maker might occasionally overlook a question that only makes grammatical sense with one answer. Read the question and possible answers carefully, and eliminate the choices that don’t match the question’s grammar.
• For instance, if a question asks, “A salamander is an,” and “amphibian” is the only choice that starts with a vowel, you’ll know it’s the right answer.
4. Choose the longest possible answer. If one choice is longer and more detailed the others, it’s probably the correct choice. Sometimes, the right choice has to include more details so it’s always correct without any doubt.
• For example, suppose a driver's test asks: Which lane you should be in when turning right? A. The left lane B. The center lane C. The lane closest to the direction of your turn D. Any lane
5. Guess “all of the above” if it only appears once on the test. If only one question has an “all” or “none of the above” choice, that’s probably the right answer. However, use your best judgement if you’re confident that at least one choice doesn’t fit.
• If you’re completely stumped and can’t rule out any choices, going with all or none could offer a good probability of choosing correctly. When all or none of the above are choices in every question, they’re the correct response as often as 65% percent of the time.

### Making Educated Guesses

1. Ask to see past exams. Ask if your teacher keeps past exams on file and if they’d be willing to share them with you. You can get a feel for the types of questions they ask and look for patterns in correct answers.
• Keep in mind that it’s always better to study the material instead of trying to outsmart your teacher. If you have a choice between studying your notes or figuring out how often “True” is the right answer, go with studying.
2. Find out if blank answers are marked incorrect. Ask your teacher or find out whether your standardized test takes points off for blank answers. Some test makers discourage guessing by deducting points only for incorrect responses. If you don’t get points off for a blank response, it’s best not to guess.
• The SAT used to have a guess penalty. It ignored blank responses and deducted points only for wrong answers. However, College Board got rid of the guess penalty in 2016. The PSAT, ACT, and AP tests don’t use a guess penalty either. For each of these tests, you get a point for a correct answer and zero points for a blank or incorrect answer.
• Standardized tests are subject to change, so make sure you know if an updated test includes a guess penalty.
3. Answer questions you know before making guesses. Time management is often a key test taking factor. Instead of spending too much time trying to make a good guess on a tricky question, breeze through all the questions you can answer confidently. You wouldn’t want to run out of time and leave an easy question blank.
4. Look for context clues in the rest of the test. You might find a clue to a tricky question elsewhere in a test. Other questions might jog your memory or give you a context clue that shines a spotlight on the right answer to a hard question.
• For example, suppose a multiple choice question asks if a weta is a plant, insect, fish, or mammal. A later question asks, “How many species of weta have entomologists identified?” If you know entomologists study insects, you’ll know the answer to the earlier question.
5. Go with an answer that seems familiar. Sometimes the right answer will trigger a feeling of deja vu. If you’re torn between a familiar answer and one with terms you’ve never seen before, choose the one that rings a bell.
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