Multiple Choice Test Taking Strategies: The Ultimate Guide

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Whether you are a high school student or a college admission seeker, you’ll probably write several multiple-choice tests throughout your school years. Most classroom tests and college examinations contain multiple-choice questions. Since you’ll likely encounter these types of questions several times, it’s only right for you to prepare for them. There’s no better way to prepare for multiple-choice questions than learning and mastering common test-taking strategies. Fortunately, we’ve done the work for you by researching the right multiple-choice test-taking strategies. Throughout this article, we’ll review the best of them while offering other useful information that will help you ace any multiple-choice test.

What are the Different Types of Multiple Choice Tests? What are the Different Types of Multiple Choice Tests?

We’ve talked about how easy multiple-choice tests can be if you know the secrets of taking multiple-choice tests. However, beyond that, you’ll also need to understand the different structures of multiple-choice tests and how to handle each before going in for your exams. To help make the process easier, this section reviews some of the common types of multiple-choice tests. A proper understanding of each will help you know what to expect.

True or False

This is one of the most common types of multiple-choice tests out there. This type of test typically comprises a statement that plays the role of the stem or question. Two answer options labeled true and false are placed side by side for candidates to select from. The tests are usually focused on measuring your ability to recognize the correctness or falseness of the statement in the question. Examiners use this kind of question to test the critical thinking ability of candidates. Bear in mind that the correct answer for this type of question will be “true,” only when the stem’s statement is entirely true. You’ll notice keywords like “never” and “always” in the stem. You must pay proper attention to three keywords to avoid getting the questions wrong.

Odd One Out

This type of multiple-choice test is designed to list several answers following a particular pattern. Candidates are then asked to pick an option that does not fit the pattern of the other options. Questions in this type of test are used to test candidates’ ability to think about patterns and relationships between ideas. You should watch out for questions like “which of these does not fit.”

Image Multiple Choice Questions

This type of multiple-choice question uses images as choice options. Examiners typically use it for questions that require visual identification. A common example of this type of question is ReCaptcha, which is the security measure that confirms your human identity when trying to access certain websites and online applications.

It also works for educational purposes. In this case, candidates would be asked to identify an image from a collection of images serving as options.

Negative Questions

Another type of question you’ll likely encounter in exam situations is the negative style question. In this case, candidates must be extremely careful while reading because the goal of the question is to examine how much attention you pay to the questions’ details. This type of question would usually require you to choose the incorrect answer from a collection of options.

Best Answer

This type of question is typically confusing and requires complete attention. In this case, examiners include more than one correct answer among the questions. However, an option is usually more correct than the other options. This type of question also tests critical thinking skills. Candidates must watch out for keywords like “most likely” and “best” in the questions to be able to choose the right option as an answer.

What is the Most Common Answer on a Multiple Choice Test?

What is the Most Common Answer on a Multiple Choice Test?

One question we’ve gotten used to hearing from people seeking how to ace a multiple-choice test is “what is the most common answer on a multiple choice test?” Of course, there’s no one answer to different multiple-choice questions, although people often try to guess the most common options. For high school exams, you can expect that many high school teachers will likely design their tests by hand, and this means that their answer keys are barely statistically random. Irrespective of the level of effort a teacher puts into trying to randomize their choice; they’ll mostly fail because human beings are not random. For instance, truly random sampling will likely produce a bizarre string of patterns, such that you can get 5 AB’s in a role or up to 20 questions without a D. As it stands, most people are unlikely to create such patterns, irrespective of how much they try to randomize.

According to Poundstone’s analysis, the most common answers for a multiple-choice question are dependent on the number of options provided per question. According to Poundstone, in a test of three answer choices, the three options are equally likely to be correct. However, if the answer choices increase to four (say, A, B, C, and D), the second option (B) will be slightly more likely to be correct (28%). If the test has five answer choices, the 5th option (E) is most likely to be correct (23%). In this case, the third option (C) will be the least likely to be correct (17%).

Bear in mind that the bias towards certain answers tends to increase with the number of available options. According to the above findings, B and E are the most common answers in multiple-choice tests of 4 and 5 answer options, respectively.

How to Outsmart a Multiple Choice Test?

How to Outsmart a Multiple Choice Test?

As stated earlier, multiple-choice tests are supposed to be random, without patterns of right and wrong answers. However, being written by humans makes it almost impossible for tests to be truly random. These fundamental flaws make it easy to outsmart examiners. People are finding common patterns in multiple-choice questions. Certain strategies can help put you on the path of outsmarting a test. Here are some of such strategies.

Ignore Conventional Wisdom

You’ve probably read several test-taking advice, with most emphasizing patterns like avoiding answers that use words like ‘never,’ ‘all,’ ‘none,’ and ‘always.’ However, recent studies show that such conventional wisdom doesn’t always hold up against statistics. Therefore, when faced with such tests, the first thing to do is to forget conventional wisdom and tackle the question from a neutral position. This way, it’ll be easier for you to spot answers to questions you’ve studied.

Check Surrounding Answers

Several studies show correct answer choices to hardly repeat themselves consecutively. Therefore, there’s a possibility you can figure the answers to the questions you are stuck with by looking at the answers to the questions you know. For instance, if you are stuck in a number, check the answers to the preceding question and that of the question that follows. If the answer to number 1 is C, for instance, and the answer to number 3 is A, you can probably eliminate those options when trying to guess the number 2. Whatever the case, still remember to cross out options you are sure are wrong based on facts before settling for a final answer.

Choose the Longest Answer

Studies also show the longest answers In multiple-choice tests to be mostly correct. When setting their tests, examiners try to ensure the absolute correctness of the right answer. This often calls for more qualifying language. Of course, no one wants to try that hard for the wrong options. If you notice one choice to be very long compared to the others, it’s likely correct.

What to Avoid During a Multiple Choice Exam?

What to Avoid During a Multiple Choice Exam?

As a student, you’ll probably face several multiple-choice tests throughout your school years. However, with adequate preparation and the right skills, candidates should ace any multiple-choice test. One other thing students need to do when answering a multiple-choice exam is to look out for common errors made when answering multiple-choice questions and avoid them. After detailed research, here are some of such common errors we discovered students often find themselves making.

Jumping in without properly reading instructions

This one is a common error among students, irrespective of test type. Unfortunately, it’s more common when answering multiple-choice questions. Students typically assume that multiple-choice questions are set in the same way, so they’ll probably ignore instructions and jump straight to answering the questions.

Choosing an answer without reading all the choices

It’s also common to see students picking the first option they assume correctly. This typically means that they’ll barely read the remaining options. But studies show that people who practice this often fail questions because of the possibility of having two right answers. You must watch out for questions with two right options and pick the most right option. Some questions also come with answers like “all of the above.” Rushing to pick the first correct option may mean missing out on the actual correct answer.

Getting stuck on one tough question

Indeed, it’s important to be thorough when answering questions in test situations. However, that shouldn’t come at the expense of answering other questions. Multiple-choice questions have more information to read and digest most times. Tougher questions even take more time to read and digest. However, experts advise that you move on to the next question if a question seems too difficult to figure out. You can come back to the question if you still have time after answering other questions.

Forgetting to watch the time

Multiple choice questions take more time to read and understand than other types of tests because of the amount of information available to be read and understood. Therefore, students need to divide the allotted time for the test into the number of questions available to avoid spending more time than required on a question. Remember that it’s better to answer questions you are sure of than to spend a long time trying to figure out those you are not sure of. You can always skip questions that are taking too long to answer and come back to them when you are done with answering other questions.

5 Test-Taking Strategies for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

5 Test-Taking Strategies for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

Tests and exams are generally scary and require lots of preparation to ace. Multiple choice questions mostly require more preparation because of the need for preciseness. However, several simple tricks exist to make it easier. Most people struggle with multiple-choice tests because of their ignorance of the right strategies to adopt when tackling the tests. However, we’ve outlined some important strategies that you can adopt to make answering multiple-choice tests easier.

Read the entire questions

We understand your speed to beat time, but reading multiple-choice questions in their entirety before looking at the answer options will help you to be more sure of the correct answer option. It’s common to see students jumping straight to the most logical answer to a question without completely reading it. This mistake can cost you so much during your exam. We recommend reading each question well before looking at the answer options.

Provide answers in your mind first

Another important test-taking strategy answering each question in your mind before looking at the available answer options. This way, it’ll be difficult for you to get confused by two similar options.

Try eliminating wrong answers

This strategy always works when you are not completely sure of the correct answer to a question. Start such questions by eliminating the answer options that you are sure are incorrect. This way, you’ll have fewer options to choose the right answer from. The strategy also works for moments when you know the right answer. Going on to eliminate the wrong options will help to make you more certain of the correct answer.

In addition to greatly increasing your chances of choosing the right answer, this strategy also helps to save time.

Read all the answer options

We’ve seen scenarios where students pick the correct answer among the first few options without reviewing other options. While this can seem like it’s saving you time, it often results in picking the wrong answers based on the test’s marking scheme. As stated earlier, many multiple choice questions have their best answers, and quickly assuming that you know the correct option may make you miss out on the best option. For instance, option A may seem correct, but another option may be more correct. The examiner expects you to choose the answer that’s most correct for each question.

Start by answering the questions you are sure of

While this may seem like a no brainer, some students still default in it. When tackling a multiple-choice test, we advise starting from the ones you know so that you can come back to the ones you are not so sure of when you are done with others. There are several reasons for this, but perhaps the most valid one is that starting with easier questions can help you get insights that will help you answer the more challenging questions. Don’t be scared about the number of questions that you are skipping; just go on with the mindset that you’ll come back to them.

Wrapping Things Up: Multiple Choice Test Taking Strategies

However you choose to look at it, the truth remains that test-taking is a skill on its own and except students acquire this skill, they’ll likely struggle in tests. This is why some of the brightest students still struggle with test-taking. Fortunately, it’s possible to learn and master this skill. All it takes is total dedication and knowledge of the right strategies. The need for this skill is even more evident in multiple-choice tests. This article is completely dedicated to helping you acquire the necessary skills for acing any multiple-choice test. We’ve also covered information on habits that can cause you setbacks during these tests.

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.

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