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A female student taking the SSAT.

Guessing on the SSAT: Good or Bad?

December 3, 2021

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. 

1. First, it’s important to understand how the SSAT is scored.

On the middle- and upper-level SSAT, one point is awarded for each correct answer; however, a quarter of a point is subtracted for each incorrect answer. 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.

2. Use the allotted time wisely.

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.

3. Make favorable guesses.

The best time to guess is when the odds of getting the question right are favorable. For example, if you can confidently eliminate two of the four 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 four possible answers, there’s a 75 percent chance of getting the question wrong, so this wouldn’t be a good time to guess.

4. Hone your guessing skills.

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.

5. Double-check your answer sheet.

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.

The OFFICIAL SSAT Practice Materials

The SSAT will challenge students at each grade level. Practice is essential, and we recommend starting with the free mini-test that’s part of the official SSAT practice materials developed by the team that creates the SSAT. The free mini-test will quickly identify your child’s strengths and areas for improvement, helping you develop a study plan that’s right for your child.

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