Second-Guessing: A Test-Takers Worst Dilemma

Chalk Talk #43

Think back to when you were a student and your teacher would give back your graded test for you to look through. You would eagerly skim through it, searching for those questions that gave you a hard time. Then you would get to the one with all the eraser marks. The one where you originally had the correct answer, but unfortunately changed your guess to the wrong one. Nothing was more frustrating than losing those points that should have been yours. We call this second-guessing, and it is a test-takers worst enemy.

Next time you’re returning tests, ask your students to raise their hands if this happened to them on any of the questions. Almost everyone’s hands will probably be raised. More often than not, a student’s first guess—which is based on intuition—is their best guess (see Chalk Talk #40). Changing their answer will only hurt their odds of getting it right and waste valuable time that could have been used elsewhere.

Keep in mind there is a difference between a student who makes a guess, returns to the question, and figures out the correct answer and a student who returns to the question, still doesn’t know the exact answer, and changes it to a different guess. Remind your students that if they can’t find the answer, they should stick with their first guess.

Check out this video to learn more:

Don't Second Guess


By pairing this strategy with our previously discussed Mark and Move strategy, you can help your students tackle questions they are unsure of and increase their chances of answering correctly! Click here to learn more about Mark and Move.

Do you have test-taking tips you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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