How Not to Fail an Exam – Introducing The Art Of Guessing

3 months ago Terri Fleming Comments Off on How Not to Fail an Exam – Introducing The Art Of Guessing

In as much as you want to fast forward time to the most – awaited summer break, you cannot. There is something that you cannot evade as a student. Yes, you are right – the dreaded finals. But if you are confident as to how not to fail an exam, the final exams will be a piece of cake. Instead of describing the finals week as hell week, you will see it as “no sweat” week.

The Art of Guessing During an Exam

Let us say the proctor announces this “Right minus wrong” or “Two points for every right answer but minus one for every mistake that you make”. If you religiously and conscientiously reviewed, maybe either of the rules will not scare you to death. You might have the dilemma of whether guessing or skipping a particular number. Good thing for SAT, incorrect answers is not penalized. (This is one way of telling you not to leave any item blank!) But what if your mind was preoccupied the other day, that reviewing was the least of your priorities? What will you do?

There are students who make use of the shotgun method. With this tactic, they tend to answer one letter for all the questions. This may miraculously save some students but remember, your teachers are also aware of this. Plus, they have most probably attended a lot of test construction seminars.

If that is the case, your next option is to guess. But this is not just guessing just for the sake of guessing and eventually finishing the test. What is being referred to here is the educated guess. You have to find ways of increasing the odds of getting a correct answer for a certain number.

Usually, multiple-choice type of questions includes four options – one of which could be the correct answer. What this imply? Well, there is good news and bad news. The good news is, in case you guess, you have 25% chance of choosing the right one. On the other hand, which is the bad news, you have 75% chance of picking the wrong one.

So, how can you resolve this? Increase your chances of getting the right option through the process of elimination. Get rid of the option which seems unreasonable and will most likely be not the correct one. If you this, you will be left with 3 options. This means that from 25% chance, you now have around 33%. Try to eliminate another option. You will be faced with a 50 – 50 chance. Well, there is still a possibility that you will not choose correctly, but at least the tides seem to go your way. Let us say that you are down to 2 but you cannot decide which one to select, simply get a coin and toss – heads or tail. Eventually, you will find yourself learning the art of guessing.

Other than a coin toss, there are other ways of making that educated guess in case you are stuck with one item because you cannot think of other ways to eliminate another option. For difficult questions, the most obvious option is most likely incorrect. Never opt for answers that are similar.

For questions that require computation, go for the number in between if the un-eliminated options encompass a broad range. Another thing, go for numbers that are very close to one another, say their difference is just a matter of decimal point. Take note of this as well when faced with equations or shapes. But you have to bear in mind that all these will not necessary give you very high marks. These are just helpful and tried and tested tactics to improve your chance of getting the correct answer.

Here is an example. Imagine that you are taking a history test. Question number 5 says, “Who is the first United States president who appointed a female cabinet member?” A. Jimmy Carter B. Abraham Lincoln C. Franklin Roosevelt D. Herbert Hoover.

How should you go about this question? First, eliminate letter B (Abraham Lincoln). Why? During his term as the president, women were not allowed to vote which implies that they also were not able o hold any government office at that time.

How about Jimmy Carter? Most likely, you have heard his name from your history teacher or your parents. This implies that he is the most recent among the 4 presidents listed as choices. If that is the case, women, even before his term, were already bestowed the right to suffrage or the right to vote and the privilege to be a part of a presidential cabinet.

Now, you are left with the 2 choices. You now have 50% chance of choosing correctly. The 2 remaining presidents were elected during the 20th century. This was the period when women enjoyed the right to vote. Well, if that is the last thing you know about options C (Roosevelt) and D (Hoover), you might be stuck with this item. So as not to waste time, better take your pick – either C or D.

But if you know more about them, then you have a higher probability of getting the question right. If you try to recall, they had different styles as president. Rosevelt was known for many drastic changes in the government. Some loved him for this. Others hated his guts. On the other hand, Hoover, being the poster boy at that time, preferred the status quo. Knowing these, you will surely pick Roosevelt for this question and you will get it right.

The elimination method works well for objective type fo tests. Since you opted for the art of educated guesses, it is best that you go back to questions you already answered, especially if you still have to review your answers. In this case, you will have more time to repeat the process of elimination if you wish to.

But when should you change your first guess? When rechecking your answers, change your guess only if it was more of a wild guess, rather than educated. You can mull over about your first guess if you really have to resort to getting rid of it instead of choosing it. This could work if your second guess seems more educated (less wild, actually) than the first.

Another thing, you may change your first guess if there is a question in the latter part of the test that will aid you in getting one question right. This actually happens in some tests.

Miscalculation of a mathematical problem is also a valid reason for changing your first guess. It is also good to recheck your answers because you might have misread some questions. In this case, you really have to change your first guess.

Lastly, rechecking your answers will give you an opportunity to visualize a particular question, especially the ones that deal with cause and effect. Look for a space in the questionnaire, answer sheet or scratch paper, where you can write down or draw the steps as fast as you can. There is no need to spell out a lot of words. Symbols or abbreviations will do. Through this, you get to see clearly the missing link, thus make you understand the association or relationships among the various parts. In the end, you increase the chance of choosing the correct answer and getting the check mark.

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