By Sean Alexander

Multiple-choice tests are stressful and difficult. Many times, a test's format and time limit can negatively affect your child’s final score. Learning and understanding multiple-choice test-taking strategies to successfully navigate multiple-choice exams can give your child confidence and improve their outcome.


Common Challenges in Multiple-Choice Exams

Multiple-choice exams are known to be confusing and difficult even if you’ve studied for the exam. While it might seem easier to come up with the correct answer when it’s somewhere on the page, the multiple-choice format often leads to doubt and second-guessing.

Multiple choice tests are common throughout a student’s career. College entrance exams like the SAT and ACT all use multiple-choice questions, and you’ll find them in many college courses as well. Ensuring your child understands the best strategies to take a multiple-choice exam can help them get a leg up throughout their education.

7 Effective Strategies for Students To Ace a Multiple Choice Test

Multiple-choice tests can be tricky, especially for students with neurodiversity. However, there are ways that your child can position themself to get the best score possible. Here are seven strategies your child can use to ace their next multiple-choice test.

1. Read the Instructions Carefully

The first thing your child must do when they begin a multiple-choice exam is take a deep breath and read the instructions carefully. You shouldn’t assume that multiple-choice tests are simple, so you can skip ahead to save some time. While many tests ask a question, provide several possible answers, and ask you to choose one, there are different types of questions.

Some multiple-choice tests may allow you to choose more than one answer. Not being aware of this will not only result in a lower score because they have not selected all of the correct answers, but they’ll also waste time deciding between multiple correct answer choices.

The instructions may also ask for the best answer instead of the correct answer. The difference with choosing the best answer is that there may be multiple correct answers. In this case, the instructions ask the test-taker to pick the answer that best responds to the question. If you don’t read the instructions carefully when taking the exam, you will get frustrated and waste valuable time.

2. Look for Key Words in Multiple-Choice Questions

Multiple choice exams test your ability to read and understand the questions and answers. Though choosing the answer to a question sounds simple, many exams word questions and possible answers in complex ways.

There are certain words that you should be on the lookout for that may appear in challenging questions. The words “not” and “except” are important because they exclude information. Other words like “always,” “never,” “all,” “only” and “none” are also important keys as they are absolutes. If one of these absolute words appears in one of the possible answers, it generally makes the statement false.

Test-takers easily overlook these common words that change the meaning of the answer. Read the entire answer and consider highlighting or underlining these keywords when you come across them.

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3. Try To Answer the Question Before Looking at the Answer Options

After you read through the question carefully, try to come up with the answer yourself without referring to the options given. If you can do this, you’ll be able to determine the correct choice very easily. Using this method will instill confidence in your answer. Deceptively worded answers will also be easier to spot when you already know the correct response.

4. Read All Answer Choices Thoroughly

If you read the question, come up with your own answer, and the first option matches your thoughts, you should still read through the other potential answers. It’s never a good idea to read and choose your answer without considering all the available information. Just like you need to read the entire question, read all the possibilities before selecting your answer.

Even if you’re certain you have the correct answer, you should still confirm that it is by reading through the other options. You may find a potential answer that makes you reexamine what the question is asking. It’s best to be completely certain before you move on.

5. Use the Process of Elimination

The process of elimination is a tried-and-true method when it comes to multiple-choice exams. When you read over the answers, immediately eliminate any wrong answers. If you’re lucky, this will leave you with only one answer, which you can choose as the right answer. However, you’ll often be left with more than one answer.

Once you’ve crossed out the answers to difficult questions you know are false, reread the question, looking for any hints that can eliminate more choices. Reread your choices, understand their differences, and see if you can eliminate any more of them before choosing your answer.

6. Apply Effective Time Management

Some students have test-taking anxiety, and a lack of time management often makes students nervous and pressures them into making quick decisions. To take the test comfortably, your child should understand how to manage their time from the start of the test.

The best way to do this is to determine your time for each question. If the test lasts 90 minutes and has 60 questions, you can spend a minute and a half on each. However, this doesn’t leave any cushion or time to check answers. Reducing the time for each question to one minute and 15 seconds will allow you to answer questions for 75 minutes and have 15 minutes to review your answers.

7. Don’t Be Afraid To Change Your Answers

There is a rumor that sticking with your initial choice on a multiple-choice exam is a good strategy. This advice can make some test-takers reluctant to change their initial selection. Don’t be afraid to change your answer if you’re unsure about your first choice. Some studies have even shown that test-takers who change their initial answers do better on average than test-takers who don’t.

Ensure the Best Results in Future Exams With Expert Tutors

Between true-false questions, essays, and multiple-choice, test-taking can be difficult. No matter how much your child studies, if they aren’t aware of the best test-taking strategies for students and how to use them, they might not do as well as they should. Having a tutor help your child learn how to take tests effectively can ensure their success. Consider contacting Alexander Tutoring and making sure all of their studying doesn’t go to waste because of a few trick questions.


  • Sean Alexander

    COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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