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UPCAT Correct-Minus-Wrong: Is it better to guess or leave the question blank?

The UPCAT has garnered a reputation as a grueling entrance exam that combines time pressure with a Catch-22 choice of guessing the answer to a question or leaving it blank.  The latter aspect is especially notorious because of the test’s one-fourth point penalty.  The question thus arises:  what should I do when I encounter a particularly difficult question?

The answer is…it depends.  The “best” option will vary from question to question depending on a variety of factors:  your mental and emotional state, the amount of time you have left, your strengths and weaknesses and so on.  You’ll need to make quick decisions at the time you’re there and follow through with them.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make “thinking on your feet” a lot easier.  First, determine if the question belongs to a subject you are good at, or at least fairly familiar with.  Guesswork makes sense if you have at least a fair amount of stock knowledge, review knowledge or skills relevant to the subject at hand.

Second, ask yourself if there a way to infer what the correct answer is.  You’ll encounter a lot of multiple choice questions in the UPCAT, and sometimes you can arrive at the correct answer via the process of elimination.  Take a look at the possible answers and get rid of the ones that are illogical, nonsensical or clearly or wrong.  Sherlock Holmes was right when he said “once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Since it’s unlikely that you’ll be 100% confident about each and every question, the point is to take calculated risks by making educated guesses and estimates.  If the question is a Math question, for instance, sometimes plugging the different options into the equation can make a world of difference.

 In the end, there is no one “right” or “wrong” way to approach the problem of guessing the answer to a question versus leaving it blank.  Prepare for the UPCAT as best you can and pray for wisdom and guidance beforehand.  When the moment of truth comes, just make the best decision you can based on who you are and on what you’ve learned.