The Short Answer to Skipping Questions on the ACT
Don’t. Just don’t. There’s no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT, so make sure you have an answer bubbled in for everything before time is called. This means before you finish each section because the rules explicitly forbid going back and answering questions in previous sections even if you are just blindly penciling in “C” for everything.
For this reason, you should always be alert to when you have 2 minutes left in a section (I suggest 2 minutes because you and your proctor may not always agree on when exactly there is 1 minute left). At this point, unless you only have a few questions left, bubble in answers for everything, and then go back to your test book to answer the remaining questions that you can. You can always erase and change your answer.
In a nutshell, leave nothing blank. You are likely to pick up a few lucky guesses on every ACT, and the test scoring machine doesn’t know if it was a guess or not.
Should I Skip ACT Questions I Don’t Know How to Answer?
Ok, now let’s talk about skipping questions as you go. Chances are you are going to be chugging along answering questions and then will get to one that stops you cold. So being the smart test-taker you are, you think, “Eeeeeek, I’m just going to skip this and come back to it later.” At this point, I suggest you always bubble in a guess on your answer sheet, but circle the question in your test booklet so you know that it is a question to come back to. If you have no idea where to begin with the question, bubble in a random guess. But if you’ve already started working on the question, bubble in an educated guess.
On many ACT questions, you can often eliminate one or more answer choices that seem way off even if you can’t narrow it down to the correct answer. Maybe you see an answer choice that contains a run-on sentence on the ACT English section. Maybe it’s an answer choice on ACT Math that says a $100 coat on sale for 25% off would cost $125 (think about it). Well, don’t pick one of those answer choices for your lucky guess! (Spoiler alert: it won’t be so lucky). The best time to guess on an answer is going to be while you are looking at a question rather than at the end of the section, so guess as you go.
Should I Intentionally Skip Questions or Passages on the ACT?
So, again, let me clarify that when I say “don’t skip questions on the ACT,” I mean don’t leave anything blank. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be making smart decisions to skip tough questions and come back to them, or even go into the ACT with the intention to skip an entire passage. Maybe you struggle with reading speed, so you are going to plan to only do 3 of the 4 Reading passages, or 5 of the 6 Science passages.
This is a perfectly valid strategy and one that, for many students who struggle to finish the ACT on time, can actually lead to a better score. So “skip” away, but always make sure you have an answer pencilled in before time is called. Your scoresheet will look so pretty, and your ACT score will thank you.
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About Kristin Fracchia
Dr. Kristin Fracchia currently focuses on our MCAT and LSAT Prep, but she also has expertise in a wide range of standardized tests, including the ACT, SAT, GRE, and GMAT, as well as college and grad school admissions. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004. She enjoys the agony and bliss of long distance trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.
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