You probably know that guessing is a good idea on the IELTS- unlike other standardized tests, there is no penalty for getting a wrong answer. Even if you have no idea about a question, you still have a 20-25% chance of getting it right.
Most students do not understand the impact that proper guessing can have on their score. Unless you score extremely high, guessing will significantly contribute to your final score.
What most students don’t realize is that to insure that 20-25% chance, you have to guess randomly. If you put 20 monkeys in a room to take the IELTS, assuming they answered once per question and behaved themselves, on average they would get 20-25% of the questions correct on a five choice multiple choice problem. Put 20 students in the room, and the average will be much lower among guessed questions.Why?
1. IELTS intentionally writes deceptive answer choices that “look” right. A student has no idea about a question, so picks the “best looking” answer, which is often wrong. The monkey has no idea what looks good and what doesn’t, so will consistently be lucky about 20-25% of the time.
2. Students will eliminate answer choices from the guessing pool based on a hunch or intuition. Simple but correct answers often get excluded, leaving a 0% chance of being correct. The monkey has no clue, and often gets lucky with the best choice.
This is why the process of elimination endorsed by most test courses is flawed and detrimental to your performance- students don’t guess, they make an ignorant stab in the dark that is usually worse than random.
Let me introduce one of the most valuable ideas of this course- the $5 challenge:
You only mark your “best guess” if you are willing to bet $5 on it.
You only eliminate choices from guessing if you are willing to bet $5 on it.
Why $5? Five dollars is an amount of money that is small yet not insignificant, and can really add up fast (20 questions could cost you $100). Likewise, each answer choice on one question of the IELTS will have a small impact on your overall score, but it can really add up to a lot of points in the end.
The process of elimination IS valuable. The following shows your chance of guessing it right:
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.
That’s why the $5 test is so valuable- if you give up the advantage and safety of a pure guess, it had better be worth the risk.
What we still haven’t covered is how to be sure that whatever guess you make is truly random. Here’s the easiest way:
Always pick the first answer choice among those remaining.
Such a technique means that you have decided, before you see a single test question, exactly how you are going to guess- and since the order of choices tells you nothing about which one is correct, this guessing technique is perfectly random.
Let’s try an example
- A student encounters the following problem on the Listening Module in a conversation about the chemical term “amine,” a derivative of ammonia:
In the reaction, the amine will be?