The SAT, ACT and many other standardized tests are all multiple-choice. So are many high school and college exams. Know the right strategies for tackling multiple-choice tests, and you’re well on your way to higher grades.
- Eliminate obviously wrong answers. These are answers that you immediately know are wrong e.g. California was one of the states that were part of the Louisiana Purchase. Other answers to eliminate are those containing totally unfamiliar content – instructors are very unlikely to test students on something they never covered in class.
- Underline key words. These are words like “not” and “always,” and are important to note because they can alter the meaning (and answer to) a question. Underlining these words will ensure you do not miss them.
- If the question is relatively short, or its answer is just a number or key word, try answering it in your mind first. That way, none of the answer questions can confuse you. For example, in answering the question “What is a subsistence crop?” you might want to think of the definition first before looking at the answer choices.
- Know when to choose “All of the above” or “None of the above.” If you are sure that at least one of the answer choices is correct, avoid selecting “None of the above,” and vice versa for “All of the above.” However, if out of the 3-4 other options given, you know at least 2 are correct, then “All of the above” might be a good answer.
- Read every answer option. This ensures you choose the best answer, not just the first correct-sounding answer you see. While multiple answers may look right, there will usually be one that gives the most precise answer.
- Go with your first instinct – research shows it’s correct most of the time. However, if you do remember something that makes you realise your first answer was wrong, change it!
- Skip questions you don’t know, and return to them later. In a multiple-choice test, each question usually carries the same number of points. As such, spending extra time on certain questions may yield little benefit for your grade.
- Try and remember related information if you don’t remember the question’s answer itself. For example, if you can’t remember the answer to the question “Who was the President of the United States during World War I?” you might want to think about the United States’ role in World War I. The President’s name (Woodrow Wilson) might then come up in your mind as you think of who made important decisions.
- Use hints or information from questions you know to answer questions you don’t. For example, you might not know how to answer, “What is transferred from the anther to the stigma during plant reproduction?” (The answer is pollen grains). However, there could be another question which asks, “Which parts of the flower produce pollen grains, the male gametes (sex cells) of plants?” Using this information, you could make the inference that since pollen grains are involved in plant reproduction, they are likely transferred from the male to the female part of the plant.
- If you really don’t know the answer, guess intelligently! Most standardized tests, like the SAT and the ACT, do not impose any penalty for guessing.
To sum it all up: read (and eliminate) answer options carefully, choose the best (and not the first) one you see, and use specific strategies to recall the answer, with guessing as a last resort.