Multiple-Choice Exams

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Hey guys! Today’s short-but-sweet post is about the best ways to study for and take a multiple-choice exam. So without further ado…


Multiple-choice exams generally focus on facts and little details, so your studying should be adjusted accordingly to reflect this. My favorite way to study for multiple-choice is to use flashcards. Space out your study time into short, regular review sessions so your brain has time to absorb all the new information. Make up your own practice tests (it’s relatively easy to predict multiple-choice questions), find some online, or have a friend quiz you. Acronyms, mnemonics, and making creative associations (i.e. putting vocab words into funny sentences) can also help you memorize faster.

Make sure to pay special attention to these things when studying for a multiple-choice test:

  • important people
  • significant events and their dates
  • vocabulary and definitions
  • theories
  • formulas


Formulate an answer before looking at the choices. This will prevent you from being thrown off by deceptively worded answers.

Read all the choices before answering. Oftentimes, all the answer choices are technically correct, but you’ll have to compare them together to determine which one best answers the question. You might also miss out on an “All of the Above” option if you latch onto the first answer without looking at the others.

Identify the differences between answer choices. Many choices look similar except for a few subtle differences. Watch out for absolutes such as “always” and “never”, similar words such as “hypotension” and “hypertension”, and opposites such as + and -.

Check to make sure you’ve answered the right question. Especially for math questions, test-makers will try to trick you by asking for the value of, say, 2x, as opposed to x. Always double-check to see if your answer actually answers the question. If it’s a fill-in-the-blank question, read the question and the answer together to ensure it makes sense.


Use the test to take the test. Sometimes you can get hints from information contained in other questions.

Watch out for grammar. Look for pronoun-antecedent and subject-verb agreement issues. Sometimes careless teachers only read back over the correct answer without also checking incorrect answers. You might be able to eliminate a few choices if they don’t make sense in the context of the question. Disclaimer: this will only work for in-class assessments, not standardized tests. I also don’t recommend this strategy unless you’ve got a very solid grasp on grammar already– don’t go looking up what an antecedent is for the sole purpose of “tricking” a test.

Choose B or C when in doubt. Again, this will not work on standardized tests, where all the answers are distributed randomly, but studies have shown that teachers tend to make the correct answer B or C more often than A or D.


Watch your time. Look up at the clock every so often to make sure you’re on target to finish in time. Give yourself the last 5-10 minutes to check your work.

Skip it and move on. Usually all questions on multiple-choice tests have the same point value, so don’t dwell on one question for too long, or you won’t have enough time to get to the rest. If you read a question twice and still have no clue how to go about getting the answer, leave it blank for now. You might be able to come back to it at the end.

But don’t skip around too much. Try to complete the test mostly in order so you don’t waste time shuffling paper and turning pages.

Mark questions as you go. If you skip something, need to double-check an answer, or want to come back to that question for any reason, make a mark on your paper (a star or question mark works nicely) so you can easily find that question later.

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