Imagine this for a moment: you’ve just been kidnapped, and your captors want to play a game. If you can solve a logic question, they’ll let you live. Otherwise, well, they won’t.

It doesn’t really matter what the logic question is, but let’s just say you don’t know how to work through the logic or solve the question the “real” way. Are you just going to sit there and wait to die? Heck no, right?!

So what are you going to do? Try random stuff out. Guess and check. Try SOMETHING and hope it works. Try anything. You’d be surprised how many students I’ve encountered with a defeatist attitude. If they can’t figure an SAT or ACT problem out, they simply resign. They give up because they’ve accepted that’s their fate.

I refuse to let this happen to you.

What if I told you I myself have come down to the nail-biting wire and not know how to solve a few questions in those final moments? The clock is ticking down, the proctor has already announced the one-minute warning…yet I still haven’t figured out the logic. Did I simply “die”? Absolutely not.

This is when you let your mental capacity go into overdrive. Pull out every stop. Do some brute force manual calculations. Draw figures and label some side lengths or angles. Write a formula. ANYTHING! Even if it’s against all the shortcuts and strategies you’ve learned. It’s in those final moments that, just maybe, something clicks. I’ve experienced it personally. It was a final Hail Mary, but suddenly I saw the solution appear magically right before my eyes.

Now, I’m not talking about doing this for every question that stumps you halfway through the test. You have to manage your time and pick up every easy question you can first. I’m talking about the final moments of the test when you’re trying to figure out those last tricky questions. Too often I see students with 5 or 10 extra minutes to spare just put their head down and nap. I want to shake them by the collar and scream, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MATE?!” Because when I’m angry, the British comes out of me lol.

If you do finish early, go back and redo the same problems. Use up all the time. People who get perfect scores don’t finish early…ever. They spend every last second, even if they solved all the questions early. Please, I urge you to mimic these role models.

Check your work with an ALTERNATE solution because checking your answers with the same method you used the first time means you’ll just retrace the same mistakes and logic again without realizing it. So if you set up a formula and solved it, try plugging and chugging this time around.

The truth is the best test takers aren’t the ones who know everything. The best ones are the people who are crafty and nimble, like a ninja. They refuse to relent, refuse to let the question get the best of them. Don’t just give up because you don’t know. Guess around. Make stuff up. Check your work, see if it was correct. Use brute force. Be creative. Try SOMETHING. Doing nothing guarantees you’re going to fail. Trying something (within a reasonable time limit) means you MIGHT get lucky.

And remember this: the SAT actually makes it easy to guess many of these situations correctly after a few tries using simple numbers. Try 2, 3, 4, or 5, maybe 10. Even try 1, 0, -1, -½, or ½. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, or what direction you’re heading in, do it anyways. You have nothing to lose, and who knows where it will take you!

Not knowing the “real math” way is not the end of the road. In fact, doing things the “real math” way is often a HORRIBLE idea because doing so leads you directly to the carefully designed traps. You mess up setting up your equation. You THOUGHT you had the right logic, but you forgot an important step or two. You miscalculate the algebra of your crazy, complex equation. It’s all bad news. Sometimes guessing numbers randomly IS THE BEST WAY, regardless of if you know the “real” math way or not.

Let go of your pride and uncertainty. High scorers KNOW they will run into problems they don’t know how to do the real math way. The difference is that they don’t give up like low scorers. They are willing to TRY SOMETHING. That’s the takeaway here – be courageous enough to try something, even if you don’t know where it will lead. Many times, you’ll be surprised that it leads you directly to the right answer. The SAT rewards those who are willing to take a risk and venture out in uncertainty. If the SAT is your kidnapper, they just really want to see if you have the gumption to fight to the bitter end.

You are a survivor! Fight on.

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