Exam Strategies: Multiple Choice Exams

Though a multiple choice question will always include the correct response, selecting the best answer is not always straightforward and can be challenging.  These tips can help you prepare for multiple choice questions you may encounter on an exam.

Check out our visual resource for "Test Taking Strategies: Multiple Choice" below!

Preparing for multiple choice exams
  • Find practice questions - refer to your textbook, lab manual, or textbook website for review questions related to the material you know will be covered on your exam.
  • Review course assessments - go through any assignments, practice tests, and previous midterms to practice and get an idea of the types of questions you can expect.  For any graded assessments, be sure you understand any errors and correct your work while practicing.
  • Create your own practice questions - creating multiple-choice questions from your lecture and text notes can help you imagine the types of questions you can expect on your exam. To write your own practice questions, try:
    • Turning textbook headings and subheadings into questions
    • Turning key concepts from lecture notes into questions
    • Reviewing previous quiz or exam questions for clues on your instructor’s style and related questions
    • If studying with classmates, divide the material and create sample questions that you can trade and use to quiz each other.

Answering multiple choice questions
  • Read each question carefully:
    • Underline key words in the question stem
    • Take note of terms that may be bolded or emphasized
  • Cover the options and try thinking of the correct answer before you look at the choices. When you have an idea of the correct response, review the options and look for the option that most closely matches your answer.
  • Read all the answer options carefully, even if the first choice seems right. Choose the best option from the responses available, as more than one may seem correct.
    • Try crossing out answers that are obviously wrong to help eliminate choice when determining the correct answer - this can save time when reviewing or revisiting a question later.
  • If you aren’t sure of the correct answer, make an educated guess if you are not penalized for doing so. Then mark that question to return to when you have time after moving on to the rest of the exam - the answer may come back to you as you are completing other questions.

 Dealing with difficult multiple choice questions
  • Pay close attention to absolute terms, like "always" or "never," and double negatives (e.g. "there are not insignificant numbers," which means there are significant numbers.)
    • Try translating the question into your own words to be sure you understand what is being asked.
  • Be mindful of distractors or extraneous information that may distract from the purpose of the question. Cross out distractors and underline key points within the question to help you maintain focus.
  • Read the question with each option as a true-false statement and identify the most true option; verify that more than one of the responses is true or correct before choosing "all of the above."

Test-Taking Strategies: Multiple Choice [Visual Resources]

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