Guess for Points to Maximize Your ACT Score

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch

The ACT is absolutely wonderful in that it doesn’t penalize you for wrong answers. In contrast, the SAT subtracts a fraction of a point for every question you miss. (This applies to the SAT through January 2016; starting March 2016, the redesigned SAT will have no penalty for guessing.) Therefore, guessing on the ACT obviously works to your advantage.

Scoring on the ACT is very straightforward:

  • You get one point for every answer you get right.

  • You get zero points for every answer you omit.

  • You get zero points for every answer you get wrong.

With this in mind, you should never leave any question blank. Try to save a couple of minutes at the end of each section just to go through the test and make sure that you’ve filled in an answer for every single question. Fill in something — anything — on the chance that you may get lucky and get the question correct.

Before guessing in any subject, eliminate any answer choices that are obviously incorrect.

With a more complex problem, such as a math problem, if you know you have to take several steps to answer the question, you may want to skip the problem, mark it, and go back to it later. If you’re not even sure where to start the problem, don’t sit there gnawing at your pencil. Guess and go.

Whenever you guess an answer, put a big arrow in the margin of the test booklet next to the question (not on the answer sheet, because it may mess up the computer grading) to remind yourself that you made a wild guess. If you run out of time and don’t get back to the question, at least you have a chance of guessing the answer right.