Multiple choice tests are a common assessment tool in schools and Post-Secondary Institutions (colleges and universities). These tests require a specific approach to studying. Multiple choice tests typically consist of a question or statement followed by several answer choices. Your task is to select the best possible answer from the provided options. These tests evaluate your ability to recognize the correct answer among distractors (wrong answer choices), making it crucial to have a solid grasp of the material.

1. Know the Content: This point probably goes without saying, but the best way to do well on a test is to know the material. Regularly attending classes, taking good notes (you can read our blog post on this topic here), and asking questions about what you may not understand. Another tip which might help to learn the content is to create summaries of each chapter or topic. This helps reinforce the material and makes it easier to review later.

2. Consider Using Active Learning Techniques: Some examples include flashcards, practice questions or teaching some one else. Creating flashcards for key terms, concepts, and dates can be used them to quiz yourself and reinforce your memory of concrete topics. 
Practice questions can often be found at the end of the chapter, online or you can even make them yourself. Explaining the material to a friend or study group (read our blog post on this topic here) can solidify your understanding and reveal any gaps in your knowledge.

3. Understand the Test Design: Most subjects have a typical structure of multiple choice questions. For example, in history, you might be given a date and asked which of the answers occurred on that date, or vice versa. Therefore, if you are having a multiple choice history test, it is a good idea to learn dates. Sometimes, there are specific types of distractors that are commonly used. This can help you avoid falling for misleading options.

4. Time Management: Remember to allocate your time wisely. Divide the total test time by the number of questions to determine how long you can spend on each question. Stick to this pace to avoid running out of time. Often, you will have one minute per multiple choice question. Some instructors will provide a bit more time to go over the entire test (i.e. 90 questions in 100 minutes), while others will not. 

5. Consider Using the First Pass Method: On your first pass through the test, answer the questions you know for sure. Mark the ones you’re unsure about and return to them later. This can help you earn points and not get stuck on a particularly tricky question.

Helpful Hint

Share your academic goals and deadlines with friends, family, or study buddies.

6. Read Every Question Carefully: Multiple choice tests generally have a question stem (the part that introduces the problem) and answers. Read the question stem carefully before looking at the answer choices. Make sure you understand what is being asked. Try to answer the stem’s question before reading the answers. If you can find your answer in the provided ones, chances are this is the correct one.

7. Read All Options Carefully: Read all the answer choices before selecting one, even if the first one seems correct. Sometimes the best answer is not the first one you read.

8. Narrow Down Choices: If you’re unsure of the answer, eliminate the obviously incorrect choices first. This increases your chances of selecting the correct answer from the remaining options. If you are still not sure, an educated guess can be the way to go. On most multiple choice tests, there is no penalty for guessing, so it’s better to take a chance.

9. Leave Enough Time to Add Your Answers to the Scantron: Most examinations will not provide time at the end to transfer your answers to the scantron sheet. Do this before your time expires. 

10. Beware of Qualifiers and Relative Terms: Word like “always,” “never,” “all,” or “none” are often incorrect as they leave no room for exceptions. Pay extra attention to relative terms like “usually,” “often,” “sometimes,” or “may”. These are more likely to be correct as they allow for flexibility.

11. After the Test: Take some time to review mistakes to understand why you got those questions wrong. This helps in identifying patterns in your errors and improving for future tests. If you are still not sure, you can seek feedback from your instructor.

Preparing for a multiple choice test requires a blend of content mastery, strategic studying, and smart test-taking techniques. By following some (or all) of the tips outlined above (or creating your own), you can approach your next multiple choice test with confidence. 

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