As you already know, the LSAT does not assess a scoring penalty for incorrect answer choices, which is why you should always guess on any question that you cannot complete during the allotted time. And, because some answer choices are more likely to occur than others, you should not guess randomly. Precisely how you guess, however, will depend on how strong of a test-taker you are, and which questions you need to guess on. Let’s explore:
1. Do you need to resort to blind guessing?
According to our Guessing Strategy and Probability Tables, you would be best served by always guessing answer choice (D) in the Logical Reasoning section of the test. Do not choose random answer choices; do not put in a pattern such as A-B-C-D-E etcetera. Although guessing answer choice (D) obviously does not guarantee you will get the questions correct, it gives you a better chance (21.3%) than guessing randomly (20%).
2. Are you running out of time on the last five questions?
The percentage appearance of correct answer choices in the last five questions of the LR section (June 1991 – June 2016) is as follows:
- A: 15.4%
- B: 19.3%
- C: 19.8%
- D: 22.1%
- E: 23.5%
As the second table indicates, if you cannot finish the final questions in the Logical Reasoning section, you should always guess answer choice (E). In fact, over 45% of the time the correct answer choice is either (D) or (E) in the last five questions. This is not an accident: it’s one of the ways in which test makers try to slow you down as you approach the end of your section. This is also why the last 5 questions in the LR section are significantly more difficult than the first 10!
3. Can you at least narrow down your possible choices?
Keep in mind that the advice above holds only for pure guessing. If you can narrow down your possible choices, by eliminating even one of the five answer choices, do not make your decision on the basis of statistics alone! You’re making an educated guess, so choose one of the answer choices you have selected as possible contenders. Assuming your logic is solid, you’d have a 25% chance of getting the question right if you were able to eliminate just one answer choice. If you can eliminate two, your chances jump to 33%. If you can eliminate three, and need to decide between two possible contenders, you have a 50-50 chance of getting the question right! These percentages give you a far higher probability of scoring a point than answering on the basis of statistics alone.
4. Are you a strong test-taker?
Assuming your accuracy is fairly high (above 90%) on the questions you do answer, but occasionally fail to answer all the questions in your section, the following strategy would be your best bet:
Quickly review the answer choices you have already selected, and use the answer that appears least frequently as your guessing answer choice.
For example, if you have completed twenty questions in a section, and your answers contain a majority of (A)s, (C)s, (D)s, and (E)s, then guess answer choice (B) for all of the remaining questions.
5. Do you need to guess on the hardest LR questions only?
As discussed in Jumping from 165 to 173: The Last Mile is Always the Hardest, it does not pay to waste 2-3 minutes on an incredibly difficult question only to miss 5 questions at the end of the section. Never, ever, throw good money after bad! Stop being so stubborn, and skip any question that appears too difficult to answer if that will allow you to finish your section.
You are far better off guessing on the 5 hardest questions in your section than on the last 5 questions in that section.
Why? Because the hardest questions have very low accuracy rates by default, and you would have likely missed some of them anyway. Although the hardest questions are often placed in the second half the LR section, their median placement is 20.33. In other words, there could easily be a few really doable questions at the very end of the section. By choosing to guess on the hardest questions only, you are not guessing blindly: you cherry-picked the questions that aren’t worth the trouble, saving yourself the time to approach the remaining questions correctly.
So, how do you guess on the hardest LR questions? Interestingly, our research indicates that you should choose answer choice (A)! If you look at the 20 most difficult questions in Logical Reasoning, answer choice (A) would have been correct 14 out of 20 times, or 70% of the time! Take it from Dave Killoran, who wrote this in one of his blog posts:
So, the takeaway here is that if you are really stumped (meaning you know that a particular question is extremely difficult) and you have to guess on one of these tough problems, guess answer choice (A). And keep in mind that if you are reading a tough stimulus, you should not discount (A) too quickly—it may very well be the correct answer!
You can easily see why the strategy of making answer choice (A) the correct response to the stem is particularly appealing from the test makers’ point of view. In the case of a particularly difficult stimulus, you may not have a full grasp of the stimulus when you hit answer choice (A), and as a result probably won’t understand the meaning or the implications of that answer. Many students simply gloss over answer choice (A) in the hopes of looking for something better to come along. Little do they know that their confusion has been predicted and exploited to further increase the difficulty of the question.
For most test-takers, guessing is the unfortunate reality of a speeded exam. Yes, it sucks. At the same time, if you know how to guess, it may allow you to complete the remaining questions correctly, thus raising your score! Do not underestimate power of strategically allocating your time: knowing how to guess, if and when you need to, should be an essential element of your pacing strategy.