August 01, 2019

Should you leave questions blank on the ACT and SAT?

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Before they take the SAT or ACT, one thing many students want to know is how it's going to be scored. How much is each section worth? Is there a curve? What should I do if I don't know an answer? If you're planning to take the ACT or SAT, this post will walk you through how points are assigned on both tests and how to tackle difficult questions.

How Is the SAT Scored?

The SAT consists of two primary sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Scores in each section range from 200-800, so your overall test score can be anywhere from 400-1600.

If you elect to take the optional essay test, that section will be graded separately ─ it does not factor into your composite score

How the ACT Is Scored?

On the ACT, you will find four sections: Math, Science, Reading, and English. Each section is scored on a scale of 1-36 points. Your composite score is an average of the four. If, for example, you took the test and got 33 in English, 30 in Reading, 27 in Math, and 28 in science, your composite would be 29.5 . . . rounded up to 30.

As with the SAT, if you elect to take the optional essay test, that score does not factor into your composite score.

Are the ACT and SAT Curved?

Contrary to what many people think, neither test is graded on a curve, so you're not evaluated based on how well you perform in comparison to other test-takers who sat for the exam on the same day as you.

Scores are scaled so that they have the same "weight" no matter what day you take the test. Because students take different versions of the SAT and ACT at various times, the College Board and the ACT take steps to make sure the tests are equitable. Equating ensures that tests given on different dates are equivalent to each other. One incorrect response on an easier version of the test could equal two or three wrong answers on a harder one. Occasionally, questions are removed if they are thought to compromise the integrity of the test. This process does not impact students' scores.

Can I Leave Questions Blank on the ACT/SAT?

The SAT used to penalize test-takers a quarter of a point per answer that was incorrect. This made guessing a dangerous gamble because guessing wrong would actually pull down SAT scores even more than leaving the test blank. However, in 2016 the College Board revamped the SAT test, and the guessing penalty was removed. This means that it is always better to guess a probably answer on the SAT than to leave the question blank

On both tests, there is no penalty for guessing. Since points are not deducted for incorrect answers, students are encouraged to attempt every question. When you encounter a question, you're not sure about, instead of leaving it blank, develop a guessing strategy to try to arrive at the right answer. For instance, you might automatically eliminate any answer choices you recognize as incorrect. Pace yourself as you work through the test, so you have time to go back over any questions you don't know before the clock runs out.

UWorld provides comprehensive test prep to help you familiarize yourself with the SAT and ACT and develop test-taking strategies that work best for you. Ready to get started? Visit us to learn more about how flexible, online test-prep can help you make the grade.


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