21 Multiple Choice Test Taking Strategies

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Whether you’re in high school or college, more often than not you have had to face a multiple choice test. Does the thought of a multiple choice test make you cringe? Do you think of the multiple questions and possible answers and immediately panic?

If you’re like most people, the thought of filling in hundreds of tiny bubbles or circling the correct answer on a multiple choice test is a daunting process.

It is always a good idea to be prepared to tackle the content and to understand strategies and secrets about how to best answer multiple choice questions.

If you’ve somehow stumbled onto this page, it probably means that you were searching for the best tips and tricks on how to pass a multiple choice test. Rest assured. You’ve found help right here. Do you want to know more on how to take a multiple choice test and pass? Keep reading for multiple choice strategies! You should feel confident about how to pass a multiple choice test!

Why are Strategies Important for Approaching Multiple Choice Tests?Why are Strategies Important for Approaching Multiple Choice Tests?

Why are Strategies Important for Approaching Multiple Choice Tests?

There are several probabilities for guessing on a multiple choice test, which makes the whole process seem daunting and tricky. Even if the chance of picking the right answer might at times make the tests easier, it is always a good idea to have a strategy. Multiple choice strategies help you think through questions thoughtfully and avoid getting tricked by a weird question.

While it is very important that you are familiar with the content and have studied for the multiple choice test, it is useful and valuable to have some strategies under your belt, too.

Keep reading to discover the secrets to taking multiple choice tests!

7 Secrets to Taking Multiple Choice Tests

7 Secrets to Taking Multiple Choice Tests

1. Outsmart the Test.

Multiple choice tests can feel intentionally confusing at times. While it is always best to prepare accordingly for a test, some test questions have the potential to throw you off course.

If that happens, remember that there are strategies on how to guess on a multiple choice test, which we will cover shortly!

2. Take a Sneak Peek.

Sure, surprises are great, but maybe not during a multiple choice test. Take a look at the test before you begin answering the questions and determine if there is an area or set of questions that might require more time. You don’t want to stumble upon a set of difficult questions; you want to be prepared to tackle them without neglecting other parts of the test.

3. Budget Your Time.

Without a doubt, there will be tricky, complicated questions on a multiple choice test. You want to have time to work through the hard questions, so it is best to take a “sneak peek” at the beginning of the test.

If the multiple choice test is divided into categories, budget your time around each section. If there are no sections, budget your time around the number of questions on the test. Always allow time to review the test at the end—especially if you need to return to a tricky question!

4. Ignore the Answers.

Even though you might feel under pressure during a multiple choice test, don’t try and save time by jumping straight to the answers. This tactic could end up confusing and stressing you out more. Instead, ignore the answers until after you read the question (see below!).

5. Read the Question (and then reread it).

This tip is no secret, and it should be quite obvious; however, many students often fail to read the question and skip directly to the answers. Before reading the multiple choice test answer selections, phrase the question in your own words and begin considering what you know about the question’s topic.

If you don’t understand what the question is asking, the answers could make you feel more confused. Once you’ve read and understood the question, you can begin reading through the multiple choice answers!

7 Secrets to Taking Multiple Choice Tests

6. Don’t Study the Night Before.

Does this seem like bad advice? It’s not! Your brain needs to rest, and if you are trying to cram information into your mind right up until the multiple choice test begins, you are going to exhaust yourself mentally and physically. Take a break, get a good night’s rest, and wake up for the test ready to execute the best multiple choice test taking strategies!

7. Eat a Quality Breakfast.

Food is power for your mind and body. Don’t forget to eat a hearty, healthy breakfast! Be sure to stay hydrated, too! Carbohydrates ensure energy and protein provides mental clarity. A solid, well-balanced breakfast and good hydration will ensure that you are full and able to concentrate.

7 Tips for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

7 Tips for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

1. Eliminate Wrong Answers.

After you’ve thoroughly read the question, try and answer it in your head first. Once you have an idea of how to respond to the question, read through the answer selections. Even if you feel confident about the correct answer, it is always a good idea to eliminate the answers that are incorrect. That way, once you’ve eliminated the incorrect questions, it often reaffirms the correct answer.

2. Look Out for Keywords.

Many multiple choice test answers often include words such as “always,” “not,” “sometimes,” “never.” These words tend to be keywords that suggest that the answer is incorrect. During the process of elimination, if you find an answer that uses one of these words, you can often mark these answers off pretty quickly.

For more information, check out Cornell University’s extensive breakdown of keywords and grammatical clues.

3. The “Look-Alike” Answer.

Along the way, you’ll probably encounter the twin answers: two answers that are nearly identical and make it extremely difficult to decide which answer is the true correct answer. Choose the best answer between the two.

In a math test with numerical answer selections, take a look at decimal points or switched numbers. If one answer says 8475.3 and another than 845.73, double check your formulas and recalculate.

7 Tips for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

4. Difficult Words.

Some answers might include difficult or unfamiliar words. If you are unsure of what the word might mean, spend a minute or two trying to understand prefixes or suffixes. Read around the problem word and try to gleam a few context clues. Most importantly, don’t mark the answer as incorrect simply because of a difficult word.

5. The Guessing Game.

Sometimes you have to guess on a multiple choice question. It is inevitable. Let’s talk about how to successfully guess on a multiple choice test. Remember that while you are looking for the “correct” answer, you are also looking for the “best” answer.

If there isn’t a penalty, guess accordingly. If there is a penalty, use the process of elimination. The question should be a guidepost; determine if there are hints in the question that can help you in the guessing process.

6. Repeated Phrases.

If a multiple choice answer repeats the question word for word, it is probably incorrect. However, if an answer paraphrases what the question is asking, then it is probably correct. This suggestion is why reading and understanding the question is so important.

If you paraphrase the question in your own words, then you are more able to understand a paraphrased answer.

7. Find the Familiar.

As you read through the multiple choice questions and answers, look for words and phrases that are from your textbook, study guides, or lecture notes. Finding familiar words can allow you to reflect on the material and hopefully guide you in finding the correct answer. Completing this action might also help jog your memory and allow you to make connections to other questions, and answer the multiple choice test with more clarity and awareness.

This method can also be useful for a math test. Jot down important math formulas on a scrap sheet of paper before you begin the test and if you encounter a question that uses that formula, you’re all set to go!

7 Multiple Choice Test Taking Tips for Choosing the Right Answer

7 Multiple Choice Test Taking Tips for Choosing the Right Answer

1. Trust the Question, Part I.

The question provides valid information and is meant to guide you in finding the correct answer. Trust that the multiple choice questions are providing you with the content that you need to select the best answers accordingly. Think on the question, determine what it is really asking, and try to make connections between the question and the answer selections.

2. Trust the Question, Part II.

If an answer provides information that is completely irrelevant to the question, or introduces information that is new or irrelevant to the question, it is probably incorrect. Answers—or part of an answer—that are unrelated to the topic of the question are more than likely not correct.

3. The Longest Answer.

When trying to determine how to answer a multiple choice question, consider that the longest answer is often the correct answer. Testmakers create answers that attempt to directly answer the question, which means that the answer is more complex.

Multiple Choice Test Taking Tips for Choosing the Right Answer

4. Trust Your Gut, Until Proven Wrong.

Your gut usually leads you to the right answer. If you truly know the right answer to a multiple choice question, don’t second-guess yourself. However, if you come across an answer that is better answering the question, don’t be afraid to change your answer. Remember that the best multiple choice strategy is to find the best correct answer.

5. “All of the Above” or “None of the Above”.

These options are the beloved answer selections, but they can sometimes lead you astray. It is important to fully read the multiple choice question and answer. If you find an incorrect answer, then you shouldn’t choose “All of the Above.” If you find an answer that is correct, avoid choosing “None of the Above.”

6. Be Positive.

While this suggestion is also literal when it comes to multiple choice test taking tips, it also applies to the answer selections. If an answer selection is negative, it is probably not the correct answer. Find the answer that positively supports the question.

7. Answer All Questions.

Let’s repeat it: Answer all questions! An educated guess is better than an unanswered question, and generally, you will often lose points if a question is not answered.

Multiple Choice Test FAQ

Multiple Choice Test FAQ

What are Distractors on Multiple Choice Tests?

Distractions can certainly happen during a multiple choice test; however, many of the multiple choice strategies listed above suggest that you arrive to the test well-rested, hydrated, and energized from a healthy breakfast.

Be kind to your body and your mind before the test. If you need a break during the test, take a moment to breathe. The University of North Carolina’s Learning Center further discusses self-management during an exam. Their website also has videos and other resources that can help you before, during, and after a multiple choice test.

There are also other distractors. Confusing questions or answers can make you second-guess yourself and your completed answers. Be sure that read the multiple choice questions and answers thoroughly.

When Should You Change Your Answer on a Multiple Choice Test?

As mentioned above, your gut response is often right, however, there are answer selections that might have two “correct” answers. If your gut answer is correct, but it’s not the best answer, then you should change your answer. Read the questions extensively, attempt to answer the question on your own, and then read the answers deductively. If your gut answer misaligns with the correct answer, it’s always a good idea to change your answer then.

What’s the Most Common Answer on a Multiple Choice Test?

Many sources claim that the most common answer on a multiple choice test is “C.” While this information is not entirely incorrect, as many articles and teachers claim that this is a strategy, it is not always the best solution. There are a number of multiple choice test taking strategies available to you, and it is always a good idea to exercise these strategies before resulting to answer “C.”

Wrapping Things Up: Multiple Choice Test Taking Strategies

Multiple choice tests are hard. There is no shame in admitting that they are difficult. However, there are numerous multiple choice strategies available to you.

If you go into the test with strategies and secrets to help you frame the test in a less discouraging or daunting way, you are going to be more successful and relaxed. Be open-minded, but prepared. Multiple choice tests can be tricky, but they are doable. These multiple choice strategies are intended to be manageable. Hopefully some of the strategies and test taking tips listed above are helpful and encouraging to you!

Remember to rest the night before and eat well the morning of the test. Be prepared to pay close attention to the questions and answers, giving yourself time to digest what the question is really asking. Trust yourself, your study skills, and your ability to find the best answer.

Show up to the test well-rested, hydrated, fueled, and ready to conquer the test! You can do it!

Did you enjoy this post? Then you’ll love our other strategies for school here. You’ll find posts like How to Be Successful in High School, How to Study Smart, and How to Be a Successful Student.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...