Study Tips: Mastering Multiple Choice

There are techniques you can learn to help you through multiple-choice exams. (photo by albertogp123 /

There are techniques you can use to help you through multiple-choice exams.
(photo by albertogp123 /

Test-taking skills can improve your
success rate

By Texas State SLAC

Have you ever gotten a multiple-choice exam back and heard yourself say, “Why did I mark that answer?” or “Now that I’ve read the question again, the correct answer is obvious!” If those words sound familiar, you might want to rethink your approach to multiple choice exams. Of course, studying to master the content being tested is your best strategy, but here’s a step-by-step process to insure that your test-taking skills are at their best when multiple choice questions get tricky.

Step 1:  Take a blank 3×5 index card to the exam, show it to the professor before the exam begins, and get permission to use it. Also ask your professor if you are permitted to mark lightly on the exam question sheet or if it’s permitted to use scratch paper (see step 4). If the professor tells you not to use the card, write on your hand — but make absolutely certain you have nothing written there before the exam begins!

Step 2:  Scan the exam to see how many questions there are. Figure out how much time you should allot for each question. You can always jump over questions that have you stumped, but be sure you mark your answers on the Scantron card beside the correct question.

Step 3:  Before you read the first question, cover up the answers then carefully read the question.

Step 4:  Reread the first question and underline all key words and phrases if your professor agreed it was okay to make marks on your exam sheet (see Step 1). Do this to make sure you know what the question is asking and to narrow down options. Key words can range from “not,” “never,” “always” and “rarely,” to phrases like “the primary purpose,” “one recommended technique” or “the researchers’ conclusion.”

Step 5:  Before you look at the answer options, quickly jot down any possible answers that come to mind in the margin of the test or on a piece of blank scratch paper — again, only if the professor allows you to mark on the test or to use scratch paper.

Step 6:  Now uncover the first option, read it carefully, and underline key words (if allowed). If it looks like a good answer, put a check mark to the left of the option. If you aren’t sure, put a ?, and if you know it’s wrong, put an X.

Step 7:  Repeat this step for each of the remaining options.

Step 8:  Finally, look to see how many check marks, ?’s and X’s you have and whether the answer u=is obvious or whether you need to choose between two or more options.

While this process doesn’t guarantee you’ll always identify the correct answer, it does prevent you from misreading questions and choosing incorrect answers on impulse just because they jump out at you at first glance.

Good luck, Bobcats!

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