No More Penalty for Guessing on the SAT

no more penalty for guessing on the sat


No More Penalty for Guessing on the SAT


Is your child taking the SAT this spring?  I have good news, as of the spring of 2016, the SAT no longer has a penalty for guessing.

They used to calculate the number of correct answers and subtract 1/4 point for incorrect answers. In other words, a wrong answer used to hurt more than leaving the answer blank. Now, students receive one point for each correct answer, and zero points for any unanswered questions or incorrect answers. There are also only four answers to choose from, instead of five.

Test prep companies used to recommend using a strategy to answer SAT questions. Now answering is much simpler, just like the ACT! Of course, it's BEST when your child KNOWS the answer, but now they can fearlessly answer with their best guess if that's not the case.

For more information on the 2016 SAT changes, check out my article, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the SAT.

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Please note: This post was originally published in February, 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Comments 1

Guest - S Dean on Sunday, 10 November 2013 13:15

Lee,
I am teaching a SAT prep class at our homeschool co-op this year and have been learning quite a bit in the process. I don't know that I would say there's a guessing penalty on the SAT.
First of all, the multiple choice questions give you 5 possible answers for each question.
You do get 1 point for every correct answer, 0 points for a blank answer and -1/4 point for an incorrect answer. By random chance, you would get 0 points if you guessed on every single answer.
So, if you just looked at the odds, you should be able to randomly guess the correct answer 1 time for every 5 questions you answer (20% of the time).
Let's use the following example. Say you get a $1 bill for every correct answer (1 point) and you lose a quarter for every incorrect answer (-1/4 point.) If you guessed correctly on Question #1 you would receive $1. If you guessed incorrectly on Questions 2-5, you would lose a quarter each time for a total loss of $1. Therefore you would be at $0 (or 0 points) by randomly guessing on all 5 questions.
We know that real life doesn't always work like statistics, so in any individual test you might be points ahead or points behind by randomly guessing.
However, the important part to take away from this is that whenever you can eliminate even one (or hopefully more) of the incorrect answers, you increase your chances of getting points even if you have to guess.

Respectfully, S Dean

Lee, I am teaching a SAT prep class at our homeschool co-op this year and have been learning quite a bit in the process. I don't know that I would say there's a guessing penalty on the SAT. First of all, the multiple choice questions give you 5 possible answers for each question. You do get 1 point for every correct answer, 0 points for a blank answer and -1/4 point for an incorrect answer. By random chance, you would get 0 points if you guessed on every single answer. So, if you just looked at the odds, you should be able to randomly guess the correct answer 1 time for every 5 questions you answer (20% of the time). Let's use the following example. Say you get a $1 bill for every correct answer (1 point) and you lose a quarter for every incorrect answer (-1/4 point.) If you guessed correctly on Question #1 you would receive $1. If you guessed incorrectly on Questions 2-5, you would lose a quarter each time for a total loss of $1. Therefore you would be at $0 (or 0 points) by randomly guessing on all 5 questions. We know that real life doesn't always work like statistics, so in any individual test you might be points ahead or points behind by randomly guessing. However, the important part to take away from this is that whenever you can eliminate even one (or hopefully more) of the incorrect answers, you increase your chances of getting points even if you have to guess. Respectfully, S Dean
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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

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