Taking multiple-choice tests is as much about strategy as it is knowledge. Even though a person has thorough content knowledge, he or she may miss some of the answers because of the phrasing of the question, or the format of the requested response. By following a few techniques, the average test-taker can maximize their score on multiple-guess exams, even if there are gaps in knowledge or understanding.
SCAN THE TEST
Read through the exam, paying particular attention to the instructions, the number of questions compared to the amount of time you have, whether or not there are “all of these” or “none of these” answer choices, and getting an overall impression of the test’s difficulty in relation to your preparation. If there are questions you know will take some time, you may wish to save those for after you have answered the easier questions. This makes sure you answer what you can before time runs out. Skipping answer spaces can throw you off, though, so be sure to put the answers you answer out-of-turn in the right spaces!
READ THE QUESTION!
We all have a tendency to fill in the blanks. During exams, it is common for test-takers to read the first half of the question, and then assume what the end of the question says. We do this because, when we studied the material, the phrasing of the material was similar. Read through each question completely, as if it was someone else reading it to you. Pay particular attention to words that change the way the question reads. For example:
Which of the following should not be done while treating a heat-related injury?
A. Provide Shade B. Lay Patient Down C. Elevate Feet D. Give Cold Water E. None
Compare that question to this one:
Which of the following should be done while treating a heat-related injury?
A. Provide Shade B. Lay Patient Down C. Elevate Feet D. Give Small Amounts of Water E. All
If the nature of the material in the book is written in a positive mode, many instructors will try to throw you off by restructuring the question in the negative. Read the questions carefully and you will avoid tricky wording.
READ ALL POSSIBLE RESPONSES
When you are well-studied, the right answer will jump out from the choices. One trick of writing tests, though, is to request the best answer. While the first choice you see that is correct might be a good one, there may be a better choice. These questions force you to evaluate the possibilities, exposing a degree of correctness.
ELIMINATE THE OBVIOUS
The formula for providing answers is to have the right answer, the opposite of the right answer, the commonly chosen, but wrong answer, and an answer that could be right. Striking out the obviously wrong answer and then evaluating the remaining choices reduces the numbers in your favor. Evaluating the remaining answers may uncover the subtle flaw in the other wrong answer, and may point to the best choice. If you need to guess at a question, this process will help move the percentage game in your favor.
DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR MARKS
When you mark the answer, re-check the number of the question, and the letter next to the answer you have chosen. When we get into a hurry, the process of marking down the answer can become a nightmare, particularly when the answer sheet is separate from the question sheet. After you’ve completed the test, go back through and re-read the questions and the answers based on what you wrote, not what you think you wrote.
ERASE COMPLETELY, FILL COMPLETELY
Many teachers use Scan-Tron forms, also known as bubble forms. Make sure that you mark completely, and that erasures are clearly erased. If your eraser is not working well, rubbing it on your jeans, or on the carpet, will sometimes refresh it.
DON’T OVER-THINK THE ANSWERS
Unless you know that you made a mistake while reviewing the test, be careful of second-guessing yourself. Most times your instinct drives the right answer. Unless you found a mistake in interpreting the question, or a flaw in one answer, go with what you knew instead of what you thought after over-analyzing.
Multiple-choice tests are favorites of teachers because of their ease of creation and simplicity in grading. They have many flaws in their assessment of advanced thinking skills, but are great for evaluating knowledge, understanding, and application of information. Take your time, follow these steps, and if you have studied well, you will do just fine.