When You Should Always Answer a Question

Learn when it's most important to answer an SAT question.

If You've Spent Time on a Question, Answer It—Always!
Sometimes, after spending time on a question, you won't be sure how to solve it. Maybe you've been able to eliminate one or more choices but you haven't found the answer. Many students wonder whether they should guess on such a question or leave it blank. You already know the answer: guess!

You may be wondering whether you should guess on a question even when you "have no idea." Yes, even then. As you'll see later, if you've spent time on a question, you'll always have an idea—even if the idea is simply that the question is a difficult one.

Not knowing an answer and having to guess can be scary. It's not. Many students suffer the mistaken fear that guessing is "taking a chance" while leaving a blank is "playing it safe." Wrong. Leaving a question blank isn't playing it safe, and it's not taking a chance—it's a guaranteed, irrevocable loss of 10 points. If you're not sure of the answer to a question, you can either take a chance or kiss 10 points goodbye. Forever.

Again, notice that you're not taking much of a chance by guessing: you're risking 2 or 3 points to save 10. But pay close attention to my words: if you spend time on a question, you should always answer it. On some questions, however, it may be better not to spend any time at all.

Wayne Gretzky, unanimously acclaimed as the greatest hockey player of all time (there isn't even a close second), once said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." That's true on the SAT as well. If you don't take a shot on a question you've already invested time in, you're definitely going to lose points. You miss 100 percent of the questions you don't answer.

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