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Carelessness is a Punishable Offense

One of the worst yet most common standardized test horror stories has to do with those silly little bubbles. Invariably, in just about every Boot Camp that I do, one student shares a story like the following:

“I knew I needed to skip one question because it was just too hard. I figured I would come back to it later if I had more time. So I moved onto the next question. When I got towards the end of this test, I almost had a heart attack. As I was filling in the bubble for question #18, I realized had actually worked on question #19 in my test booklet. Turns out, I was filling in all of the wrong bubbles starting from the question I had skipped! With only minutes to go in the test, I had to erase and fill in bubbles like mad. It was a disaster!”

The good news is that the student followed a good test-taking strategy: skip questions that you can’t do quickly and try to come back to them later.

The bad news is that the careless approach to filling in bubbles made this “question-skipping” strategy backfire.

I always tell my students to remember that those bubbles are not graded by a person, they are graded by a machine. If it were a person, they might give you the benefit of the doubt. A teacher might have given partial credit, for example. But a machine only recognizes correct answers, incorrect answers or blank answers. There is nothing in between. So a machine will indeed punish a student if he or she is careless.

Same goes for stray marks on an answer sheet or bubbles that are not filled in properly: for better or worse, carelessness is a punishable offense on standardized tests.

Don’t let a machine tell you if you whether or not you performed well on a standardized test. Let your answers dictate your scores by checking your test booklet every so often. A half second spent double-checking your answer sheet to make sure you are filling in the corresponding bubble, completely filling in the bubble and erasing all stray marks will pay off in the long run.

Learn more test-taking tips with an SAT or ACT Boot Camp from CROSSWALK. The Monterey Peninsula’s resource for tutoring over the past ten years, CROSSWALK has prepared hundreds of students for the SAT, ACT and more. We host one-day Boot Camps for SAT and ACT and we also match private tutors with individual students in a variety of academic subjects. Contact us today to learn more or check our Boot Camp Calendar for the next one-day camp. 

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