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How to Get Better Scores on Multiple Choice Tests

Updated on September 12, 2012

Does your heart start pounding when you look at a multiple choice test question? Do you get nervous, reading the answer choices over and over, looking for a trap? Are you always worried that you might have missed something, or that it is a trick question?

Multiple choice tests are not just for school. Besides school exams, you will find multiple choice tests in the workplace, driving tests, and even in job applications. Learning how to score well on multiple choice tests will help you succeed in school and beyond!

Multiple Choice Test
Multiple Choice Test | Source

Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple choice test questions come in two forms: question form and sentence completion form.

Question form consists of a question followed by answer choices. Here is an example:

What is the name of the Earth's galaxy?

  1. MD92
  2. Saturn
  3. Milky Way
  4. Aurora Borealis

Questions in this form can have answers that are words or phrases like in this example, or answers that are paragraphs or longer.

Sentence completion form consists of a partial sentence followed by possible phrases to finish that sentence. Here is an example:

The closest star to the sun is

  1. Polaris
  2. Ursa Minor
  3. Proxima Centauri
  4. Sirius B

The answer choices for this form are usually a few words or a phrase.

Multiple Choice Tests

As with any type of exam question, there are strategies that can help you score higher and feel more confident when taking a multiple choice exam. In fact, once they know how to tackle them, many students think multiple choice tests are actually easier than other types!

Here are some tips for scoring well on multiple choice test questions:

  • Read the question by itself, and try to come up with the answer without reading the answer choices. Then find the choice that most closely matches your answer.
  • If you can't answer the question without looking at the answer choices, use the answers to give you hints about the answer.
  • When in doubt, go with your first hunch. If you've studied for the test, it is most likely correct!
  • Look for key words in the question. Superlatives such as "best" and "most" are often used.
  • Read every answer before you choose one. Using the key words in the question, select the BEST answer. Sometimes there may be more than one that is correct, but you want the best choice.
  • Eliminate the answer choices that you know are incorrect. If your test is on paper, cross them out! There is no need to keep reading them if you know they are not correct.
  • If you know that two or three of the choices are correct, look for an "all of the above" option.
  • Beware of "none of the above" answer choices. In order for this to be the right answer, absolutely none of the answers can be correct.

If you feel confident about an answer and you've read all of the choices thoroughly, mark the answer and move on. Don't try to read too much into the questions or second guess the teacher. This will waste your valuable test taking time, and isn't likely to help your score.

Multiple Choice Exam Tips

Sample Questions

Here are some sample multiple choice questions, along with how to tackle them:

The atomic number of an atom is the

  1. The number of neutrons in its nucleus
  2. The number of protons in its nucleus
  3. The type of protons it contains

The question above contains several key words: atomic number, and atom. The first key word lets us know that the answer will be a number, which allows us to eliminate the third answer (a "type", not a number).

Ancient Egyptian mummies are

  1. Usually buried at sea
  2. Sent into outer space
  3. Sometimes found in Egyptian pyramids
  4. None of the above

In this question, we will first look at the last answer. Are any of the choices possible? If so, then the fourth answer is not correct. In this case, the third answer is plausible, so it cannot be "none of the above,"

Which of the following is true about the planet Earth?

  1. It has one moon.
  2. Its surface is made mostly of water.
  3. It is the third planet from the sun.
  4. All of the above

In this question, start with the fourth answer. If more than one of the others is correct, this is the right choice!

There are many types of multiple choice questions. Look for key words and eliminate obviously wrong answers and you'll be almost done already!

Strategies for Success

Test Taking Strategies

No matter how many tips you follow, nothing can replace the need to be prepared. In a multiple choice test, it's true that you need to recognize the answer, not write it from memory. However, recognizing that answer and knowing the answers that should be eliminated is much easier when you have studied for the exam. When you know an exam is coming, make sure you understand exactly what will be covered and ask your teacher for tips on how to study. The more you know about how to study, the more likely you are to focus on the information that will be on the exam.

When you are taking a test, try to keep moving through the questions. If you have the ability to go back and answer questions that you've skipped, take advantage of it. If you get stuck on a question, skip it and come back to it. This will prevent wasting time on a single question, which could prevent you from finishing the test.

Multiple Choice Questions in Unexpected Places
Multiple Choice Questions in Unexpected Places | Source


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    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Marcy - there are some great books with practice tests out there for the GRE. For such a big (and somewhat foreign) test, I definitely think the practice helps. I hope these tips will help too. Good luck!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I'm wavering about taking the GRE exam (somehow I didn't need it for my MA program). And I dread it. I will use these tips to help me get through it! Voted up!

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Multiple choice tests might sound easier but sometimes they aren't. I enjoyed the way that you broke it down into multiple steps to help get the answers right.

      Voted up and useful

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Kittyjj - same here! I always liked these best, but I know many people struggle with them.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Very useful tips! I love multiple choice tests because I don't need to memorize the spellings. I find eliminating the wrong answers worked best for me when I was in school. Voted up and useful!

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Glimmer Twin Fan - I bet he did use some of these, although I can't imagine acing them without setting foot in class! WOW!

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Donnah75 - Thanks so much! I appreciate your passing on the advice. I have written a few other hubs about test taking skills, and one in the works about preventing test anxiety. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      BlissfulWriter - that is a good method to use. They are my favorite type of test also!

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      I always like multiple choice tests. Somehow, I can always tell one or two choices that are bogus answers and can eliminate them.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Great tips. I am teaching a class this year that is for students who have failed their exams that they need for graduation. Our whole focus is to practice and study for the exams so that they can move on in life with a diploma. This is the kind of advice I am sharing with them. It is valuable to go in with a game plan. Voted up and sharing.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Wish I had had this in college. I dated a guy who could ace a multiple choice test even if he had never set foot in the class or knew nothing about the topic. I asked him how he did and he just said common sense. I bet he used some of these tips too.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Nettlemere - nice to know I've done my job. Just don't read that BEFORE taking a multiple choice test!

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Rick gave me a chuckle too, which is just what anyone needs after tackling a multiple choice test. I now can't get the song out of my head and it has rendered me unable to write anything sensible!

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      Great hub on coping with multiple choice test questions.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Cocopreme - glad to give you a laugh! Thanks for reading.

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 5 years ago from Far, far away

      Did you just Rick Roll me?! You've got me laughing now. But this is a great resource for test takers. Great hub!

    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      Nice resource. Well written and well done!