Tips for Taking Multiple Choice Tests

Multiple-choice tests:  You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.  Some students think with these tests you have at least a one in 3 or 4 or 5 chance of getting the question right.  Others, though, note that the authors of the multiple-choice questions try to make the questions tricky–steering you toward the wrong answer.

Whether you like multiple choice tests or not, if you’re a student, you’ll face plenty of them.  Also see our Post on Answering Different Types of Test Questions.  Most Standardized tests are Multiple Choice, including Teacher Certification, College Entrance Exams and High School Tests as well as the Armed Services Entrance Exams, the ASVAB and AFQT.  So are there ways to improve your score on these tests? There are! We’ll share with you some of the best strategies for answering multiple choice.

1) Tip number one: Note how many questions there are to answer.  Then compare this to the amount of time you have for the entire test, and decide how long you can allot for each question.  In most cases, you should spend no more than 20 or 30 seconds on each multiple-choice question.  If you find yourself stuck on one for much more than that, skip it and move along.  If you still have time left after you finish the other questions, you can come back to it.  More on Managing Exam Time

2) Resist the temptation to answer the question before you have read it all the way through. It is amazing how many people miss a multiple-choice question because they stopped reading too soon–and missed some important detail that changed the answer.  More on Reading Exam Instructions.

3) Likewise, read the question carefully. Pay particular attention to questions that are phrased in a tricky manner–and single words that change the question’s meaning.

4) Be sure you put your answers in the right spot. Many multiple-choice tests have those circles or ovals you have to color in. The disadvantage to you is that if you fill in the wrong oval for the wrong question, it could throw off every other question after that. So, check these closely, and keep an eraser handy.  see also Common Mistakes on a Test

5) Never change an answer unless you are positive your first answer was wrong. It is amazing how often your first hunch is the correct one.

6) Keep in mind that if two answers some very similar to each other, while one or two or three others do not sound similar to those two, the answer is almost always one of the two answers which are similar to each other.

7) Don’t give up too soon on a question just because you think you do not know it. Usually there will be one or two answers that you can rule out immediately as being absurd.  Once you have ruled out a couple of answers, you have just improved your chances of getting the answer correct.

8) Finally, never leave a question blank unless you are informed that points are taken off for a missed question. A one in four chance of getting a question right is better than a zero in four chance–and those are the odds for the questions you leave blank.

More Tips on How to Prepare for a Test

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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    It’s nearly impossible to find educated people in this particular
    subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

  2. Lola3326

    I personally love taking multiple choice exams. i think they are easiest to pass. helpful points thanksx

  3. Diego

    Elimination is the best strategy. I also see tests with double barrelled answers where the choices are, 1) and 2) If you look at the combinations, and the choices you can eliminate several, since they can’t list all of the possobile combinations

  4. joe

    i usually have problems with questions that offer to similar answers. i get very confused

  5. teacher

    a lot of students fail multiple choice exams because they do not read all the options. You really have to read all the choices before making your choice. Remember the choices are designed to confuse so don’t fall into the trap – think clearly and work slowly, carefully and methodically.

  6. joey

    I heard somewhere that the answer is likely to be C on 1-4 multiple choice questions. Thats what my teachers always talked about when we prepped for a Cat9 or SAT exam.

    • Robert

      Predicting that every questions will have the same answer for multiple choice is a very risky strategy. you have 1 in 4 chances anyway, and usually much higher if you can eliminate 1 or even 2 choices. For more info on Multiple Choice strategy see Multiple Choice Secrets

    • Brian

      Most standardized tests are computer generated so the answers are shuffled so they are different each time. BUT – some high school tests that a teacher makes up, or College tests that are made by the teacher MAY have a tendency to have choice #3 as correct more often. The statistics of that would be very tough to make it a reliable guide though. There might be a 60% that choice #3 is the correct answer, so you would have a very slight advantage to guess #3.

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