Can Guessing Boost Your SAT or ACT Test Scores?

This week I’m sharing ACT and SAT prep strategies to boost your teenager’s SAT and ACT scores. In case you missed them, I’m linking to my first two SAT tips and then you’ll find my newest one which answers the question of whether you should guess on the SAT.

SAT Test Strategy No. 1: Improve Your SAT or ACT Scores: Take a Sample Test

SAT Test Strategy No. 2: Deciding Whether to Take the ACT or SAT

SAT Test Strategy No. 3: Guess Strategically.

The SAT penalizes students for incorrect guesses, but your teenager can boost his or her SAT score by becoming a smart guesser.

Each SAT multiple-choice question offers five choices. The SAT penalizes students ¼ point for every question they get wrong. Here’s when SAT test takers should guess: when students can confidently eliminate at least one wrong answer, they should go ahead and guess.

What about the ACT? Guess away. The ACT doesn’t penalize students for guessing.

SAT Test Strategy 4: Use Free or Cheap Test Prep Resources.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on SAT and ACT prep classes. Here are some low-cost or free ACT and SAT prep resources: I love this SAT resource that helps students prep with a combination of videos, a pencil and paper and online questions. The cost ranges from $99 to $599, but it’s also heading to libraries where it’s free. Students can practice with SAT questions and the site records how they are doing. Even better, the free test prep site will send the parent a weekly progress report on how much time a child is spending on and what percentage of answers she is getting right.

SparkNotes. Teens can boost their vocabulary for the SAT by learning the 1,000 most common SAT words. Another vocabulary source is FreeRice. Every time a child gets an answer right, FreeRice donates a few grains of rice to the United Nation’s World Food Program.

High school SAT prep classes. Test  prep outfits like Princeton Review and Kaplan are moving into high schools by offering cheaper prices. You may be able to slash hundreds of dollars off a test prep course by taking it at a high school.

SAT Test Strategy No. 5: Avoid Overkill

If you do extremely well with your SAT results, don’t bother with the ACT. And the same advice holds if you’re thrilled with your ACT score. All colleges and universities in this country will take either the ACT or the SAT.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Great advice, especially about avoiding overkill. Kids have enough to do without having to prep for more tests than they have to.

    Also, while a skilled tutor can help a student make progress faster, a diligent student can improve his score a great deal on his own.

    Another great resource is the Official SAT Study Guide, published by the College Board, the same people who administer the SAT, because you have to work with actual SAT material in order to be familiar with exactly what’s going to be on the test. The ACT organization has a similar book you can use if you’re taking that.