Wise guessing

Wise guessing is helpful, and sometimes life-saver, for IELTS candidates. Unlike a few standardised tests, there is NO penalty for getting an answer wrong in the IELTS test. Even if you have no idea about a question, you still have a 20-33% chance of getting it right. Most students do not understand the impact proper guessing can have on their score. Unless you score extremely high, guessing will significantly contribute to your final score.

Think about not answering a few questions either in your reading or listening test and scoring nothing for those questions versus wisely guessing their answers and making a few of them correct. This will surely have an impact on your band score.

The process of elimination the wrong answer is valuable and a part of the wise guessing technique. According to this process, you first eliminate the wrong answer(s). If there are 3 options for the answer, then after eliminating the first option increases the chance to hit the right answer to 50%. Be prudent here and eliminate the next option among the rest of the two options. Bingo! Now you are 100% correct. However, if you accidentally eliminate the right answer or go on a hunch for an incorrect answer, your chances drop dramatically to 0%. By guessing among all the answer choices, you are guaranteed to have a shot at the right answer.

Moreover, if you leave a blank space by not writing an answer to this box (applicable for reading and listening test), you might write the right answer in a wrong place later on. This may get you into trouble. So, it is better to guess rather than leaving blanks. However, there is a huge difference between guessing blindly and making what an educated guess. So guess wisely and scientifically.

Guessing is often approved by some as a reading skill – something you can learn and practise. Here are some tips for wise guessing for the IELTS reading section.

Think straight:
Some questions seem difficult to answer when you approach them for the first time but make sense when you look at them after some time. So when you encounter a question that you can't answer- don't spend too much time and don't leave it permanently either. Thinking that you can't answer it - is a wrong approach. Better mark them with your pencil and retry them when you finish answering the remaining questions of this reading passage.

When you get back to attempt the unanswered questions, treat them as if you have not seen them before. A fresh perspective often helps you find correct answers quickly. If you are still confused, eliminate the obviously wrong answers and narrow down your answer choices.

Think about the question types:
Some questions are better for guessing than others. So make the odds work in your favour by using your guessing skill for the right questions type. For example, you are less likely to answer a 'short- answer' type question accurately by guessing but can do so when the question type is 'Y/N/NG'.

For the 'matching headings to paragraphs' type questions, you have almost 10 answer choices for each question. So if you get stuck to the question number 2, don't panic or spend too much time on that. After you complete matching the heading for the remaining paragraphs, get back to question 2 and now you probably have 2-3 options. Answering this question should be fairly easier now than your first attempt. Strikethrough or mark the headings that you have already used on the question paper, thus your mind would not be distracted by those not applicable answer choices.

For the 'Yes/NO/ NOT GIVEN' type questions, you have a better chance to guess the answer- at least a 33% chance. So attempt them.

Understanding the passage and its meaning:
If you understand the content and context of the passage, you would be in a better position to guess the answer. For instance, if the passage is about the dangers of ecstasy from drugs, then anything positive about unprescribed drugs would probably be wrong. So think about this aspect while guessing the answers.

Your answer should fit in:
If your answer does not fit in properly in the question, then probably your answer choice is incorrect. If it is a 'fill in the blanks'
type question, make sure to put your answer in the gap and read the whole sentence to check if it makes sense and is grammatically correct. If it is not, you should look further for the correct answer.
The same goes for the 'summary' and the 'text completion questions'.  From the question, try to figure out if you need a verb/noun or an adjective. This will help you greatly to answer the question correctly.

Finally, adhere to the instructions. If you write three words when the instruction asks you to write no more than two words, your answer would be wrong.

Where the answers are:
It is often, if not always, the case that the answers come sequentially, at least half of the answers would follow this pattern. So it is highly unlikely that the answer to the first question would reside in the fourth paragraph. Being able to mark the areas on the reading passage where you find an answer would greatly help you find the answer to the next questions.

It is, therefore, recommended that you write the question numbers on the reading passage text where you find answers to these questions.

It is also recommended that you keep track (by marking the lines/ text and so on) of questions that you have NOT answered so that when you return to reattempt them, you can find them quickly and easily.

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