Getting a Good Score Without Finishing

Learn how to get a good SAT score without finishing the test.

Suppose you received a score of 80 out of 100 on a test at school. Would that be a very good score, a good score, an average score, or a bad score?

Well, on the SAT, 80 percent right is better than a 650 on the reading, writing, or math tests. That's a combined score of 1950, a score level achieved by only one in ten college-bound students. In other words, you could leave one sixth of the questions completely blank, make a few mistakes, and still achieve a very good score.

Assuming that you're not rushing, and you're able to maintain a high level of accuracy by allowing only a handful of errors, you can leave the following fraction of questions blank and still achieve the corresponding score levels:

  • one-twelfth of the questions blank and still achieve a 700 (2100 combined)
  • one-fourth of the questions blank and still achieve a 600 (1800 combined)
  • one-third of the questions blank and still achieve a 500 (1500 combined)
The mistake most students make is rushing to answer all of the questions. In doing so, they make avoidable mistakes on easy and medium questions that they could have gotten right (had they gone more slowly), in an effort to answer hard questions (on which they make mistakes that are often unavoidable).

The possibility that you can do very well on the SAT without attempting a fair number of questions runs counter to your experience in school. On school tests, your teachers almost always expect you to at least attempt every question. On the SAT, unless you are shooting for a score in the top 5 percent or better, you'd be foolish to attempt finishing. Allow some time to become comfortable with this notion.

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