Multiple Choice Test Strategies

Strategies for Acing a Multiple Choice Test

Taking a multiple choice test
Getty Images | David Schaffer

Like it or not, agree with it or not, we all have to study and take a multiple choice test at some point in our lives, right? We take them in elementary school to demonstrate reading comprehension. We take them in middle school to show the state that we meet the state educational standards. We take multiple choice tests in high school like the SAT and ACT to demonstrate that we are ready for college and will succeed when we arrive.

We take them in college (boy, do we take them), to pass a class. Since these tests are so prevalent, it's important to have a few strategies under our belts when we sit for the exams. Read below, because these multiple choice test tips are sure to help you get the score you need on whatever exam you're taking next. If you’re still studying for the test, however, then click the link above to read how to study for a multiple choice test first!

Multiple Choice Test Strategies

Read the question while covering up the answer choices. Come up with an answer in your head, and then check to see if it’s one of the choices listed.

  1. Use a process of elimination to get rid of as many wrong choices as you can before answering a question. Wrong answers are often easier to find. Look for extremes like "never" "only" or “always". Look for opposites like a substitution of –1 for 1. Look for similarities like "conjunctive" for "subjunctive." Those could be distractors.
  1. Physically cross off wrong answer choices so you are not tempted to go back at the end of the test and change your answer. Why? You will read more about trusting your gut in a minute.
  2. Read ALL the choices. The right answer may be the one you keep skipping. Many students, in an attempt to move quickly through the test, tend to skim answer choices instead of read them thoroughly. Do not make that mistake!
  1. Cross off any answer that does not fit grammatically with the question on your multiple choice test. If the test blank is looking for a singular noun, for instance, then any question choice displaying a plural noun will be incorrect. If you struggle to figure it out, then plug the answer choices into the problem to see if it works. 
  2. Take an educated guess if there is no guessing penalty, like there used to be on the SAT. You will always get the answer wrong by skipping it. You at least have a shot if you answer the question.
  3. Look for wordy answers. Unless you’re taking a standardized test, the correct answer is often the choice with the most information. Teachers often have to put as much info down as possible to make sure the answer choice can’t be disputed.
  4. Remember that you’re looking for the best answer. Often, more than one answer choice will be technically correct on a multiple choice test. So, you have to choose which one fits best with the stem and in the context of the reading passage or test.
  5. Use your test booklet or scratch paper. It often helps to write as your work, so write down formulas and equations, solve math problems, outline, paraphrase and underline to help you read. Use the scratch paper to help you work things out logically.
  1. Pace yourself. If you get stuck on a question, circle it and move on. Come back at the end of the test so you don’t waste precious time on something you may not get right anyway.
  2. Trust your gut. Definitely go back through your test to make sure you’ve answered everything, but keep you answers the same unless you’ve discovered new information in a later part of the test to disprove your answer. Click the link for more details about this strategy!
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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "Multiple Choice Test Strategies." ThoughtCo, Nov. 22, 2017, thoughtco.com/multiple-choice-test-strategies-3212049. Roell, Kelly. (2017, November 22). Multiple Choice Test Strategies. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/multiple-choice-test-strategies-3212049 Roell, Kelly. "Multiple Choice Test Strategies." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/multiple-choice-test-strategies-3212049 (accessed January 16, 2018).