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Guessing on the SSAT: Good or Bad?

Robyn Lewis
Aug 3, 2023
2 minute read

Should I guess on the SSAT?

That’s a common question, but the answer isn’t as clear because...it depends. Let’s walk through the test-taking pointers below to better understand when guessing can help or hurt SSAT scores. 


<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">First, it’s important to understand how the SSAT is scored.</span>

On the Middle (for students in grades 5–7) and Upper Level (grades 8–11) SSAT, one point is awarded for each correct answer, a quarter of a point is subtracted for each incorrect answer, and no points are awarded or deducted for omitted questions. In other words, four incorrect answers erase one correct answer, so there is a risk with guessing. The real question is: When is guessing worth the risk? More on that below.

On the elementary-level SSAT, there’s no penalty for incorrect answers, so the goal should be to answer every question, even if by guessing.


<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">Use the allotted time wisely.</span>

Each section of the middle- and upper-level SSAT is timed, so it’s a good idea to complete the easy questions first to avoid missing out on points from the time expiring. If you get stuck on a hard question, keep moving. Once the easy questions are done, go back through the hard questions to determine whether making a guess is worth the risk.


<span class="text-color-green" role="decoration">Make favorable guesses.</span>

The best time to guess is when the odds of getting the question right are favorable. For example, if you can confidently eliminate three of the five answers as incorrect, the chance of guessing the correct answer is 50 percent. That scenario is often worth the risk of possibly losing a quarter of a point when there’s a full point to gain. However, if you’re stumped by all five possible answers, there’s an 80 percent chance of getting the question wrong, so this wouldn’t be a good time to guess.


<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">Hone your guessing skills.</span>

Guessing—and knowing when to trust intuition—is a skill that can be improved using the official SSAT study materials. The study guides will help increase knowledge for the test, making guessing less necessary. The practice tests also provide an opportunity to try guessing when you can eliminate one or two answers to see how you do.


<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">Double-check your answer sheet.</span>

When taking the paper test, put a mark next to the hard questions that you skip, and be careful to avoid putting answers in the wrong rows. It’s a good idea to double-check your answer sheet periodically to make sure you didn’t accidentally fill in an answer on a row that was skipped.

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