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Some Advice for Multiple Choice Tests

October 6, 2023

Multiple Choice General Advice


The most frequent error made when taking a multiple-choice test is incorrectly reading and understanding the questions. Pay close attention to everything in the question.

To avoid misinterpretation, try covering the question with your hand, reading it, and then restating it differently. Now go through each response and eliminate any that are inaccurate. Usually, you can limit the options to a small number.

Read the entire question. There may be parts of the question that reverse the meaning. If there are more than one part of the question, don't disregard any part if if it seems like the question is discussing two separate subjects. You will be better able to respond to the question accurately if you first establish the relationship between the parts.

Some questions may have superfluous information. Try not to be distracted. This is sometimes the case when there is a large pre-amble to the question.

When you are looking at a question, make predictions.  You are typically most focused after you have read the question. Before reading the choices, try to guess what the right answer will be, and then go back and see if your prediction was close enough.

If you have multiple potentially correct selections, figure out which ones fully answer the question. If a response is either partially accurate or true only in a limited number of circumstances, it is probably incorrect. If you must make an assumption in order for the response to be accurate, it’s probably wrong.

If, despite your best efforts, you can still not decide between two options, try visualizing each choice as the correct response and read the question/response together.

You might "feel" that one of the responses is incorrect if you're like most people. Embrace this emotion. Research shows that feelings are typically strong even when recall is weak.

If you think the question (not a selection) is a trick, it's probably not.  Developing a trick question is difficult for test authors. "Trick questions" are more likely a case of overthinking. 

Once you've picked a response, read the question and response together. Both should make sense together.

Keep your time to a minimum while answering challenging or complicated questions. Look for obviously wrong responses and then take an educated guess. Bookmark the questions and come back to them later.

Multiple Choice Watch List


Carefully look for questions that can lead you astray:

  1. A response that is true only in a limited number of circumstances is typically wrong.
  2. You are tempted to make an assumption in order for the response to be accurate the response is wrong.
  3. You are tempted to think up unique scenarios in which the response might be correct the response is wrong.
  4. You’ve found two responses are opposite in one question, one is probably correct.
  5. You’ve tried visualizing each choice as the correct response and read the question/response together.
  6. You think the question (or a response) is a trick – it’s probably not.
  7. The response has the following words: always, never, all, must are often wrong.
  8. Wrong responses may have grammatical hints such as verb tense that agree with questions.
  9. Different levels of accuracy between responses and the question (e.g. week, hours, months).
  10. Make sure a response with numbers that are not too tiny or large.
  11. The response is right but does not answer the question is typically wrong.
  12. The question has a long preamble that doesn’t help the question.
  13. The first part of a question may lead you to a wrong answer.
  14. If there are words in the response that are new (not in the question), it's typically the wrong response.
  15. Question or response has words like "but, although, nevertheless" can change the meaning
  16. A response repeats part of the question are often wrong. Most correct choices are to paraphrase rather than repeat the question.
  17. Responses with slang or an overly casual tone are often wrong.



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