The College Board is about to announce a change in the Advanced Placement program that will end the penalty for wrong answers.
So after decades in which test takers were warned against random guessing, they may now do so without fear of hurting their scores. The shift is notable because the SAT continues to penalize wrong answers, such that those who cannot eliminate any of the answers are discouraged from guessing. The ACT, which has gained market share against the SAT in recent years, does not have such a penalty. At this point, the College Board is changing its policy only for the AP exams.
Under College Board policy to date, AP scores have been based on the total number of correct answers minus a fraction for every incorrect answer — one-fourth of a point for questions with five possible answers and one-third of a point for questions with four possible answers. The idea is that no one should engage in “random guessing.” The odds shift, of course, if a test taker can eliminate one or more possible answers, and the College Board’s advice to test takers acknowledges this, saying that “if you have SOME knowledge of the question, and can eliminate one or more answer choices, informed guessing from among the remaining choices is usually to your advantage.”