If you’re getting set to take the SAT this coming year, there are a few things you’ll need to know. And, oddly enough, the things you need to know have nothing to do with math, reading or writing.

There are many good SAT prep courses out there that will probably teach you many of these need-to-know things. Or, you could take a chance and hire a tutor (me, for example) who might not even know about them. Don’t get me wrong: those are both great routes to take if you’re serious about the SAT. But the things I’m talking about are things you can learn without that.

Things like how to master the art of guessing. How to make the most of your very limited time. How you can use the test layout to your advantage. All sorts of tips and tricks about the test that will give you an edge.

So, over the next several days, you’ll be seeing a series of articles from me on how to increase your SAT score.

Today: the art of guessing!

You’ve probably heard a lot about the scoring system. It may seem boring, but it’s actually quite important.

It’s quite simple: you get 1 point for each correct answer, 0 points for any unanswered questions, and -1/4 point for each incorrect answer. There’s a whole fancy chart that converts those points into your final score, but for what you need to know, those are the numbers.

So what?

Well, let’s break it down a bit.

Each SAT question has five possible answers. If you randomly guess the whole way down on, say, 100 questions, you’d end up with no points at all. You’d get about 20 correct (+20 points) and 80 wrong (-20 points). 0 points for you.

But… if you can eliminate just one answer and then guess, you’d actually end up ahead. You’d get about 25 of the questions right (+25 points) and 75 wrong (-18.75 points). 6.25 points—a bit better, but not enough to get you into much of anything in the way of colleges.

Eliminating two answers and then guessing would give you 16.5 points.

Eliminating three answers and then guessing would give you 37.5 points.

Seeing a trend?

Basically, the way to answer SAT questions is to take a look at the thing first and quickly eliminate all the choices that are obviously wrong.

If you come to a question you simply have no clue about, just eliminate a couple options and take a guess. You’ll save time for things you can work out and you’ll end up ahead in the long run.

But there’s even better news: you don’t have to rely on just guessing. There’s another handy aspect of the test layout that you can use to your advantage. I’ll be talking about it in a couple days, so subscribe up there on the left and stay tuned!

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