Preparing For a Multiple Choice Exam

Students sometimes feel that they do not have to prepare as much for a multiple choice exam since they are simply choosing the obvious right answer from the bunch. This is not true. Many times during a multiple choice exam, students will be asked to decipher material that is not straight from a textbook. Multiple choice questions require students to decipher from many similar and nearly-correct answers. These decisions require the student to use many critical thinking skills that can not always be taught in the classroom. Some times students go into a multiple choice exam feeling overly confident that they know the material. This can cause them to read the questions too quickly and carelessly leading to wrong answers. Students should not only study the material before a multiple choice exam, but also learn about the thinking involved in answering multiple choice questions.

How to Study

1. Take a Learning Skills Course.

  • To learn how to recognize the assorted levels of testing skills needed to do well on a multiple choice test.

  • How to implement new strategies for reasoning, understanding and memorization.

  • UWO- Study skills to improve memory for a multiple choice exam.

2. Join a Study Group and rehearse answering multiple choice questions with other students of various skill levels.

  • Brigham Young University: How to start a study group and why they are so helpful.

3. Study old exams to determine the type of thinking and analysis required and also to see the slight degree of difference between correct and incorrect answers.

4. When studying about the topic the test will be on, be sure to take a close look at groups of facts that are similar. Memorize the differences in these groups instead of the similarities so you are not fooled by closely related answers.

5. Practice extracting important details from passages and recounting them at the end of the study session.

Taking the Test

1. Read the directions very carefully! Some multiple choice exam directions will indicate that some of the answers may be partly correct, or correct statements on their own, but not when joined with the passage or question. Some directions may also ask you to mark all correct answers involved.

  • Techniques used on multiple choice exams to distract or trick students who try to guess (PDF)

2. Take time into consideration. Most multiple choice exams are timed, most will allow you to spend a minute (or less) on each question. Use these techniques to help make the most of the alloted time.

  • After reading through each question, answer the ones you know are 100 percent correct and leave a question mark next to the questions you feel you need to spend more time on. You can return back to these at the end and focus your time accordingly.

  • Go back to the questions you were not sure of immediately after finishing the entire test. Know if the test you are taking deducts points for incorrect answers, if this is the case then only guess if you are reasonably sure you know the right answer. If you have no idea then leave it blank. If the test does not take away points for incorrect answers use logic, the process of elimination and your best guess to answer the questions you are not sure of.

  • Note answers and questions that include wording such as: "All of the above", "None of the above", "Usually", "Sometimes" , "Always" , "Never" etc. These phrases can trip up students who do not read the questions carefully enough. If you stumble upon a question including these phrases read it more then once and first deduct the answers that may contradict or form a double negative.

  • Changing Answers . The myth that students who change test answers always end up picking the wrong one is false. You should not spend time double checking answers unless you wrote a question mark next to them in the first run. If you feel there is a better answer then the one you originally chose, then pick it. If your not sure then leave it, its still a guess either way.

The follow-up

1. Once you have your test graded and back keep it as a study tool. You can further your study skills by learning from your own mistakes.

  • Remember how you studied for this test, and determine which styles worked for you and which learning skills you need more practice with.

  • Examine the questions you did not get correct and determine if it was because you simply did not know the material or if you were fooled by the content of the question.

Test Taking Resources

  • Tips for: Reducing Test Taking Anxiety

  • Memory Systems: Learn how to better memorize and recollect information for tests.

  • Distance Learning: For students who want to learn at their own pace and schedule.

  • Basics: Test taking tips from Providence College RI.

Published: 2010-01-20