When in Doubt, Don’t Charlie Out

Published on Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 by

ACT Chalk Talk #19

The proctor announces, “Five minutes left.” Your students’ eye towers of empty bubbles on their answer sheets. Panic sets in.

It’s for moments like these that the conventional wisdom has evolved: “Guess C.” Or, more colorfully, “When in doubt, Charlie out.” You give your students a panic button to mash, a go-to guess that prevents them from committing the cardinal sin of standardized test-taking: leaving an answer blank.

As the data would have it, “C” (and the alternating “H” that goes with it in the third column of the bubble sheet) is not the best panic button to mash. As a matter of fact, as a blind guess for students to use as they are running out of time, it’s the worst possible choice.

We analyzed the ten most recently released ACT tests, and here is what we found: in the last ten questions of the English, Reading, and Science tests, “C” and “H” are correct only 20%, and, with Math, “C” and “H” are correct only 15% of the time.

Blind guesses are the worst guesses. Help your students with time management strategies so they don’t have to make them, but if they do have to make blind guesses as they run out time, “A” and “D” are the better panic buttons.

Here’s a video from our Decoding the ACT professional development program that gives you more details: Blind Guessing for the Win. Feel free to share.

Think our data-driven approach to ACT prep might help your teachers improve scores? Check out Decoding the ACT and our TruScore ACT Practice Testing and Analytics.


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