Guidelines for Answering Multiple-Choice Questions

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Updated on Jul 24, 2013

Does your teen get a) anxious over multiple-choice test questions, b) overwhelmed by the different options, c) confused by ambiguous wording, or d) all of the above? Multiple-choice test questions can be confusing. Here’s a toolbox of tricks and strategies to help your teen become a multiple-choice master.

What You Need:

  • Your test
  • Pencil

What You Do:

  1. It’s a good idea to read through the test before you begin to take it. When you read through the test, get a feel for the information that’s on the test, and for the amount of time you can afford to spend on any one part of the test.
  2. When you read through the test, pick out questions that you find “easy” - i.e. you are sure of the answer. Answer those first.
  3. Don’t be afraid to use the test as a source of information. Often, another question will help you answer the one you are stuck on.
  4. Choose answers that are longer and more descriptive. These answers stand out from the others. Take a look at this example. What is a thesaurus? a. Almanac b. Encyclopedia c. User Guide d. Volume giving a list of words with their synonyms, antonyms and related words *
  5. Look for a single pair of opposite answer options. The correct response is likely to be one of the two options in the pair, so ignore the other choices. What type of fertilizer mixture promotes quicker greening of grass? a. Higher proportion of nitrogen These two options are the pair of opposite answers b. Lower proportion of nitrogen c. Straight potassium sulfate d. Wood ashes and lime
  6. Look for clues to the correct answer in the question that is being asked. Which one of the following is a step in the scientific method? (Select one.) a. Use a step-by-step approach. b. The null hypothesis must be measurable. c. Create or state a hypothesis. d. Others must be able to reproduce the results. The clue is the word “step” appearing in the question. Only option (c) above actually describes a step. Additionally, the expression “step-by-step” in answer option (a) is misleading.
  7. Do not select answer options that are unrelated to the question being asked or are not plausible (possible). An inexperienced technician is assembling a computer and has encountered instructions for checking the jumper setting. What is a jumper? a. Power connection lead b. Young child’s coverall c. Very simple form of switch d. Link between memory slots Option answer (b) is unrelated either to the question or to the other answer choices. It is not plausible (possible).
  8. Look for collective (“None of the above,” “All of the above,” “both X and Y”) or non-specific (“It is impossible to tell”) answer options. Which of the following are warning signs of type one diabetes? a. Extreme fatigue b. Frequent urination c. Unusual weight loss d. All of the above * Although this guide focuses on examining multiple-choice science tests taking, skills learned can be applied to standardized tests given in all subjects.
Mike is a 20-year veteran science teacher, and runs an online business ( Over the years Mike has studied trends in science, education, and finance, conducting research, developing programs, and writing articles on these topics.