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We want a society in which we are free to make choices,  to make mistakes, and be generous and compassionate.
Margaret Thatcher, 1925 -
English Prime Minister

Testing with success series

Multiple choice tests

Multiple choice questions usually include a phrase or stem
followed by three to five options:

Test strategies:

  • Read the directions carefully
    Know if each question has one or more correct option
    Know if you are penalized for guessing
    Know how much time is allowed (this governs your strategy)
  • Preview the test
    Read through the test quickly and answer the easiest questions first
    Mark those you think you know in some way that is appropriate
  • Read through the test a second time and answer more difficult questions
    You may pick up cues for answers from the first reading, or become more comfortable in the testing situation
  • If time allows, review both questions and answers
    It is possible you mis-read questions the first time

Answering options
Improve your odds, think critically:

Cover the options, read the stem, and try to answer
Select the option that most closely matches your answer

Read the stem with each option
Treat each option as a true-false question, and choose the "most true"

Strategies for answering difficult questions:

  1. Eliminate options you know to be incorrect
    If allowed, mark words or alternatives in questions that eliminate the option
  2. Give each option of a question the "true-false test:"
    This may reduce your selection to the best answer
  3. Question options that grammatically don't fit with the stem
  4. Question options that are totally unfamiliar to you
  5. Question options that contain negative or absolute words.
    Try substituting a qualified term for the absolute one.
    For example,  frequently for always; or typical for every to see if you can eliminate an option
  6. "All of the above:"
    If you know two of three options seem correct, "all of the above" is a strong possibility
  7. Number answers:
    toss out the high and low and consider the middle range numbers
  8. "Look alike options"
    probably one is correct; choose the best but eliminate choices that mean basically the same thing, and thus cancel each other out
  9. Double negatives:
    Create the equivalent positive statement
  10. Echo options:
    If two options are opposite each other, chances are one of them is correct
  11. Favor options that contain qualifiers
    The result is longer, more inclusive items that better fill the role of the answer
  12. If two alternatives seem correct,
    compare them for differences,
    then refer to the stem to find your best answer

Guessing:

  • Always guess when there is no penalty
    for guessing or you can eliminate options
  • Don't guess if you are penalized for guessing
    and if you have no basis for your choice
  • Use hints from questions you know
    to answer questions you do not.
  • Change your first answers
    when you are sure of the correction, or other cues in the test cue you to change.

Remember that you are looking for the best answer,
not only a correct one, and not one which must be true all of the time, in all cases, and without exception.


Testing with success series

Test preparation series |
Ten tips for terrific test taking | Taking online tests | True/false tests |
Multiple choice tests | Short answer tests | Open book exams | Oral exams |
Essay Exams | Essay terms and directives | Math Exams

For teachers: Writing multiple choice tests