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Thomas Broderick

ACT Tricks: Second Guessing

Welcome back to ACT Prep class, students. After a brief hiatus writing about colleges and ACT Topics, I’m back to give you another one of Mr. B’s patented ACT Tricks!


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Today’s topic is second guessing: what it is, why it happens, and most importantly, how to avoid it on the ACT. My hope is that any reader preparing for a standardized test can take a little away from this article. So without further ado, let’s get started.


Second Guessing

As a former ACT proctor, I’ve seen a lot of second guessing. It was usually in the last minute of each ACT Test when I noticed a handful of students furiously erase answers and bubble in new ones. Though I hoped they were choosing the right answers, I doubted it.

Though the name might imply that you’ve guessed twice, it’s possible to second guess even on questions that you know your answer is 100% correct. You might think that you’d never make such a mistake, but the way second guessing happens is the key to understanding why even you might fall under its control.


Why Second Guessing Happens

A lot of second guessing can boil down to one word: stress. Stress makes us uneasy. Stress creates doubt. Stress makes us second guess what we know to be true.

If you’ve read my article about the difference between stress and pressure, you can prepare yourself in advance so that the stress is at a low roar during the testing session. Actually, being a master in ACT time management can cause second guessing. How, you ask? Well, if you have finish all the questions with time left over, the second guessing alarms in your brain have a chance to go off. In my experience, hardly any students who were answering questions up to the last few seconds of the ACT ever went back and changed their answers.


How to Avoid It

I want to make it clear that all second guessing isn’t all bad. For example, for questions where you really guessed, listen to that little voice that says, “uhhh…this probably isn’t right.” If there’s time, go back and give those questions a once over.


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…some of the time.


Yet for the questions where your first instinct was certainty, ignore the temptation to change answers, especially during the last seconds of any test on the ACT. Those seconds are for making sure that all those bubbles are filled in.

That’s all for, ACT Scholars. That little voice in your head isn’t all bad, but make sure to keep him under control on test day!


About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

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