While multiple-choice exams may seem challenging, you can prepare
yourself by understanding the structure of a multiple-choice test and
how to approach these types of exams. Remember, the correct answer
is right there in front of you! By carefully analyzing each question and
choices offered, you can increase your chances of performing well on
each multiple-choice test you take.
The Structure of a Multiple-Choice Question
Each question consists of just three parts:
1. The first part a multiple-choice problem is the basic section that
asks a question, gives and incomplete sentence, or poses a
problem that you are expected to solve.
3. The next part of the question is a number of distracting
alternatives. These are the incorrect answers that are designed
to test your true knowledge of the subject. Some of these
alternatives may seem correct, so it is important to know the
topic well to avoid selecting an incorrect answer.
5. The final part of a multiple-choice problem is the correct answer
to the question or problem that is posed.
Techniques For Exams
In addition to following good study habits, there are steps you can
take during an exam to ensure you choose the correct answer.
• Read the question carefully! The most common exam errors occur
when students fail to accurately or thoroughly read each
• Read all of the choices. Don’t stop reading all of your options
simply because you think you’ve already found the correct
• If you are struggling with a question, try reposing each option as a
• Even if you are unfamiliar with the question, try to use common
sense or logic when selecting the best possible answer.
• Take notice of all-or-nothing words or phrases. Examples include words such as "Every," "Always" and "All." These are less likely
to be correct than words that offer room for exceptions or
alternatives such as "Some," "Many" or "Few."
• Answer questions in the order they come. If you spend a great
deal of time skipping around, you are likely to mistakenly leave
some questions unanswered. If you are stuck on a question, put
a mark off to the side and come back to it when you have
answered the rest of the questions.
• Guess! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so never leave any
question on a multiple-choice test blank.
While no amount of strategy can compensate for poor study habits,
understanding the structure of a multiple-choice test and using good
test-taking techniques can improve your performance. Combining
these techniques with preparation and knowledge of the subject is the
best route to academic success.
Nothing can replace great study skills, but practicing good test-taking
strategies can help improve your performance on psychology exams.
These tips are applicable to virtually any topic, so start working on
your own personal approach to test-taking in order to determine which
techniques work best for you. Whenever you take a test, spend a little
time evaluating what you did that worked well and how you might
apply those skills again in the future.
1. Start By Looking Over the Test
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As soon as you receive the exam, spend at least a couple minutes
looking it over. How many questions are there? What type of questions
are on the test? In many cases, your psychology tests will be a mix of
different questions types. For example, the test might include number
of multiple-choice questions, a true-false section and a few essay-style
questions. Understanding the format of the test will give you a better
idea of how to budget your time.
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2. Pace Yourself
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Most tests have some sort of a time requirement, so it is important to
answer questions as quickly as possible in order to fully complete the
exam. Start by determining how long you have for each question.
Generally, you should allow approximately 30 to 60 seconds for each
multiple-choice question, depending upon the amount of time you
have available for the test.
3. Don't Skip Around
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Some recommend starting with the easiest questions first before going
back to finish the difficult questions at the end of the test. While this
strategy may work for some students, it also makes it more likely that
you will forget to answer skipped questions. Also, you'll lose more time
by having to look back over your test and figure out which questions
you didn't answer. Instead, try working your way through the exam in
the order the questions are presented. If you do find yourself
struggling with a particular question, place a clear and obvious mark
next to it and then move on to the next question. When you are
finished with each section of the test, you can then quickly go back to
the marked questions and try to come up with a response.
4. Use the Process of Elimination
Image courtesy Clinton Cardozo
Generally, the first few multiple-choice questions will be the easiest,
but don't let this lead to overconfidence. The questions will probably
become increasingly difficult the further to delve into the exam, which
is when you should start employing a psychology test-taking strategy
known as the process of elimination. When you encounter a question
that you don't immediately know the answer to, start by carefully
reading each possible answer. Then start ruling out the options that
make the least sense. Even if you are completely baffled by the
question, it is often possible to use common sense and your prior
knowledge of psychological topics to determine a likely answer.
5. Read Each Question Carefully
Image courtesy Sanja Gjenero
It may sound like a bit of very obvious advice, but reading each
question carefully is one of the most important test-taking strategies
you can use on any psychology test. As you begin to read the
question, you might immediately formulate a response before you've
even finished reading the question. If you were to write your answer
before you fully read the question, you might miss out on important
information or you might even give the wrong response.
Remember that some multiple-choice tests include more than one
answer that is technically correct. Your job is to select the answer that
fully answers the question and is the "most correct" out of all the
possible options. Tips on Taking Multiple-Choice Tests
The following tips are based in part on a document prepared by Steve Houseworth, formerly of the
Duke University Sociology Department, and in part on materials developed by Scott Plous of the
Wesleyan University Psychology Department. Most of the recommendations are taken from an
AATBS manual designed for the psychology licensure exam, from research on testing and test
anxiety, and from the experience of both professors. Because the document is lengthy, it is divided
into two general sections:
6.Preparing for the Exam
7.Taking the Test
Preparing for the Exam
Simulate the Required Behavior
When studying for an examination, the most effective
approach is to closely simulate the behavior you'll
ultimately be required to perform. For example, if you're
studying for a difficult closed-book exam in Social
Psychology, it's important that you practice answering
difficult social psychology questions without access to
your notes or textbook. Equally important, you need to
practice answering questions that someone else has
chosen. After all