Can strategic guessing make a difference in your final TOEFL test score? The short answer is yes (probably)! In the TOEFL iBT test, there is no penalty for guessing, so you should try to answer all the questions. Leaving the answer blank will definitely hurt your score; therefore, guessing and filling in all the answers will probably help your score. In other words, your chances of getting a higher score are better if you guess. So what is strategic guessing? Let’s look at a few important strategies:

Assign each question a level of importance. Triage! In medical terms, this means to decide which patient to help first, depending on the type of injury or sickness. For example, a patient with a broken leg will probably be given priority over a patient with a sprained leg. This strategy should also be used when taking the TOEFL test. Triage the questions and manage your time accordingly. You want to spend more time on the questions you have a chance of answering rather than questions where you have no idea what the answer is. Spending more time on questions you are sure about will help you to use your time more effectively.

Eliminate wrong answer choices. There are some questions where you will have an idea what the answer could be, but you are not sure. In approaching these questions, take a look at the answer choices and eliminate the ones that are definitely wrong. If you eliminate two answer choices as wrong and you have to decide between the remaining two answers, your chances of getting it right have increased fifty percent!

• Trust your first answer. If you have prepared for the test and have read the question and all the answer choices completely, then you should trust your first instinct, or what you thought was the answer initially. If you feel compelled to keep changing your answer for a certain question, trust your first instinct and go with that answer.

• Avoid patterns and choose your letter of the day. There are other questions where you will have absolutely no idea what the answer is at all. One thing you do NOT want to do is to look for patterns. There are NO patterns despite what many students may think. You may have several of the same letters in a row for answer choices and they are all the right answers. There are no patterns, so just answer the question according to your strategy. Have in your mind the “letter of the day.” For every answer that you have no idea about, you just mark your “letter of the day,” which is the letter you decided to put as an answer choice ahead of time in case you have no idea about the answer. This could be the letter A, B, C, or D. The important thing is to be consistent. This also goes for questions you have not been able to answer when the time runs out. That chances are better if you put one letter for the remaining questions. You will get more correct answers than if you randomly put any letter for the answer choices.

Remember, next time you take the TOEFL test, try to use strategic guessing. It won’t hurt your score and you may just get a higher score in the long run!