The Art of Guessing
Guessing, like pacing, is more important on the CAT than on any other test you have ever taken. You’ll have to guess often on the CAT because:
- You can’t skip questions. If you hit a mental block, you have to guess at the question in front of you. You can’t pass over a question and go back to it later. Since all answers are final, you have to make sure your guess is a good one. Most students waste more than 1/3 of their time bogged down on a handful of tough questions. You have to learn how to guess, move on, and cut your losses after spending more than a few minutes on a question.
- At the end of the test, when time is about to expire, you have to hurry to make sure to do every question or else face the severe penalty for not finishing all the test’s questions. Many students have to do this last-minute sprint and are often left guessing on the last few questions.
The key guessing strategy is P.O.E. (process of elimination). A big asset going into test day is knowing that one of the five possible answers must be right. If you can eliminate two of the choices, you can increase your chances of getting the right answer by 65% (from 20% or 1 in 5 to 33% or 1 in 3). Here’s how to do it:
Eliminate answer choices you know are wrong. Even if you don’t know the right answer, you can often tell that some of the answer choices are wrong. On Data Sufficiency questions, for example, you can eliminate at least two of the answer choices by determining if one of the statements is true.
Avoid answer choices that look suspicious. For example, on Sentence Correction questions, beware of any answer choices that look completely different from all of the other choices. In the Quantitative section, you can usually eliminate any answers that are negative when all the other answers are positive.
Once you have narrowed down the list of answer choices, pick one of the remainders. It is a myth that some answer choices, like A or C, are more often correct than other choices.