Multiple Choice Test Taking Strategies

Standardized Test Taking Strategies for Multiple Choice QuizzesEven though many states are scaling back on spring testing, before the 2019/2020 school year standardized testing was mandated in all 50 states. Some states used PARCC or Smarter Balanced; some states created their own tests, and some used a hybrid of the two. On top of this, about half the states required students to take the SAT or ACT.[1] For the fall of 2021, three-fifths of 4-year colleges are test-optional.[2] Now politicians have asked to pause testing.[3]

Still, teachers are required to give grades and testing is likely to return. Preparing students to take tests is important as odds are students will take tests (whether standardized or not) throughout their school years. This series of blog posts provides practical test-taking strategies beginning with multiple-choice tests. This is the first of a five-part series. Come back each week to learn about True/False, Matching, Fill in the Blanks, and Essay test-taking strategies.

To make the material student-friendly as well as more interesting, I have created a free Boom deck with alternating facts and questions. This game-like activity is sure to keep students engaged as they learn more about test-taking.

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The Boom Card Lesson Script for Multiple Choice Test-Taking Strategies

Skimming the Test

When taking a multiple-choice test, skim the entire test first. As you skim the test, answer ‘easy’ questions you are sure you know the answer to. Place a question mark next to the questions that will take a lot of thought. Be sure to erase the question marks later.

You wonder, why should I do that? Doesn’t it take up valuable time? Here are the reasons…

    • If the test is timed, skimming will help you better judge the test length and time points needed to complete the test. Skimming helps you plan your time.
    • Skimming will provide a better understanding of the types of questions that are on the test. It gives you a better mindset to answer the questions.
    • Also, sometimes information in one test question will help you answer another question. Skimming helps you spot this type of information.



Why should you skim over the test before jumping into Question 1?

  1. You can answer all the ‘easy’ questions getting part of the test off your mind.
  2. Knowing the number and difficulty level of the questions will help you better plan your time.
  3. You can mark questions that will take more time to complete.
  4. All of the above


Which of the following members of the Declaration of Independence Committee wrote the document? 

  1. John Adams of Massachusetts
  2. Roger Sherman of Connecticut
  3. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania
  4. Robert R. Livingston of New York
  5. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia


Benjamin Franklin was a representative from the state of —.

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Connecticut
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. New York

Did you go back and look up the answer? Imagine if you knew the question about Benjamin Franklin’s home state was coming up. You most likely would remember the answer. Occasionally one question will give you hints or even answers to another question. Skimming the test will help you locate helpful hints. 

General Rules

Read the instructions carefully. You may be asked to…

    • Select the most correct answer.
    • Mark all correct answers.
    • Which of the following is NOT…
    • Also, notice questions that include all of the above or none of the above.

Read each question twice. First, read the entire question eliminating obviously incorrect answers. Reread the narrowed-down options before selecting one.

If time allows, check the questions on each page of the test before moving on to the next page. Your concentration will be sharper when you reread only a small number of questions instead of the full test.

INTERESTING FACT – A study by Stephen M. Smith in 1984 proved that visualizing the setting you were in when learning a fact can help you recall the details you learned. So, next time you are trying to dig a detail out of your mind, stop and visualize where you were when you learned the information.


Type T for True and F for False in front of each statement.

____ Some multiple-choice test questions may ask you to mark more than one answer.

____ On tests that aren’t timed, complete the entire test before going back and checking answers.

____ Eliminating wrong answers is not necessary if you can spot the correct answer quickly. 

____ A question may ask for you to find the answer that is wrong.

____ Stephen M. Smith’s study proved that it doesn’t matter where you study.


Some multiple-choice questions may ask you to mark more than one answer. This is true. Watch for questions that ask you to select all the correct answers.

On tests that aren’t timed, complete the entire test before going back and checking answers. This is false. Check each page of answers before going to the next page. It is easier to focus on small segments.

Eliminating wrong answers is not necessary if you can spot the correct answer quickly. This is false. Sometimes you think you have found the correct answer. When reading the question more thoroughly, you may discover a better answer choice. Always read the entire question and eliminate answers you know are incorrect.

A question may ask for you to find the answer that is wrong. This is true. Look for questions that say, “Which of the following is NOT…”

Stephen M. Smith’s study proved that it doesn’t matter where you study. This is false. Smith’s study proved that you will remember information more clearly if you can associate facts and details with where you learned them.


When you come to a difficult question, spend only about 2 minutes on it and move onto the others. This is important for several reasons.

  • You don’t want to run out of time.
  • Your subconscious mind will continue to solve the question while you work on simpler questions.

Words such as usually, often, generally, may, and seldom are more often correct than absolute answers including words such as every, all, none, always, and only. Absolute answers show that the correct answer is an undisputed fact. These are rare.

If the question contains the words none, not, never, or neither look for the answer that is a definite out-and-out fact.


Separate the following words on the T-chart.

only usually often every may
generally none all always seldom


Words that Signal General Answers Words that Signal Absolute Answers
usually every
often all
generally none
may always
seldom only

Which type of answers [general/absolute] are rarely the correct answer on a multiple-choice test?

  1. general
  2. absolute

The words none, not, never, or neither signal —-.

  1. facts
  2. falsehoods
  3. deceptions
  4. statistics

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When All Else Fails…Guess

Some tests penalize for wrong answers. Make sure you know if the test you are taking subtracts points for wrong answers or if it is better to answer every single question before you begin.

If completing the entire test, follow these guidelines when you absolutely don’t know an answer.

  • If the multiple-choice test contains four options ABCD, select B. It is the correct answer approximately 28% of the time.
  • Consecutive answers of the same letter are less likely. If you are positive B is the correct answer to the previous question, select a different answer for the next question.
  • When the multiple-choice question has five options ABCDE, select E. The least likely answer will be C.
  • If the answer makes the question/answer choice grammatically correct, it is most likely the correct answer.
  • If the answer choices include “All of the above” or “None of the above,” select one of these two choices. “All of the above” or “None of the above” are the correct answers 52% of the time.
  • If the answer contains numbers, choose one in the middle.
  • If two answers have similar sounding or looking words such as continual and constant, select one of these answers.



In the novel Wonder, Auggie has extraordinary physical deformities. Why is Auggie considered brave?

  1. Even though he is tormented for being different, Auggie braves going to school.
  2. Auggie has been running ever since his father threatened him and his mother with a gun.
  3. He is an amazing ballplayer.
  4. Auggie lives in a society in which the government controls everyone.


Even if you have never heard of the book Wonder, the best answer is A because it best completes the thought Auggie has extraordinary physical deformities. It is the most grammatically correct option.

You have no idea which answer is correct. You will NOT select —-.

  1. Nile
  2. Amazon
  3. Yangtze
  4. Mississippi
  5. Yenisei

When 5 answer choices are given, select E. Answer C is the most likely to be incorrect.

What is the first letter of the alphabet?

  1. D
  2. A
  3. C
  4. B

You just answered the question about the alphabet. You are positive you know the answer. This next question is a tough one. You have no idea what the answer is. Which answer will you NOT select?

  1. Mauna Loa – Hawaii
  2. Eyjafjallajokull – Iceland
  3. Mount Vesuvius – Italy
  4. Mount Nyiragongo – Congo

You would not select B because consecutive correct answers are less likely.

After reading the question thoroughly, you still have no idea which answer is correct. You will select —-.

  1. pumpkins
  2. apples
  3. pears
  4. All of the above

“All of the above” and “None of the above” are correct more than half of the time.

You have no idea which answer is correct. You will select —-.

  1. Henry Ford
  2. Thomas Alva Edison
  3. Walt Disney
  4. Albert Einstein

When 4 answer choices are given, select B.

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Free Test Taking Strategies Activities

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