Hints about Tests and Test-Taking

Now most 'big' m/c tests (SAT, GRE, LSAT, etc) are crafted as carefully as possible, however there still are ways to better your grade with them, and especially with m/c tests that you may have to take that are not so carefully crafted.

The problem with m/c tests are that the test taker is given the question and the answer on the paper. So, the other 'answers' are called detractors. As the name suggests, they are there to detract, or distract, you from the 'right' answer. They have to be logically close to the 'right' answer but not 'as correct'. (you can reference our earlier discussions on 'right answers). Normally there is at least one detractor you can eliminate as being totally of base because it is not like the others.

Taking Tests:

Don't go into a test feeling gloomy. You can reduce the chances of this by not getting involved in anything controversial with friends, family, or others just before the test. Also, treat yourself: get up early and go out for breakfast, relax, read the paper, order extravagantly, or treat yourself in any other way BEFORE the test.

Do calming exercises such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Talk yourself through the anxiety. Take a sweater along in case the room is cold. Sit away from friends during the exam.

When a test is handed out, jot down formulae, equations, and rules that you want to remember. Take a deep breath, relax, and begin.

Answer the questions you know, if a paper/pencil test, skip those you don't know the answer immediately, mark your first guess in the margins of the question booklet. If a computer test, you don't get that option, so use these tips as you come across questions you are unsure of. Paper/pencil takers, come back to those you skipped and:

Eliminate the choices that you know are incorrect.

Eliminate choices that are grammatically different than the question (question in past tense-answer in present, question asks in plural-answer in singular)

When two of the four choices are opposites, pick one of those two as the best guess.

Avoid pairs. If Q-28 is known to be 'C', avoid guessing 'C' in 27 or 29.

Non-answers ("Zero", "none of the above") are usually poor guesses. (standard practice is to avoid these type of answers, and they are used when only two detractors can be thought of.)

In questions asking for the most or the least, pick the answer next to the most or least (Most- 5, 8, 9, --15<---, 30.)

"all of the above" is generally a good guess (standard practice is to avoid these type of answers, so they are used more often when the answer IS all of the above)

The longest answer is a good guess.

If two of four choices are almost identical, pick the longest of the two.

If a few questions have five choices instead of four, pick number 4 or 'd'.

True/False questions:

When 'ultimate' terms are used (all, never, always, must, etc) false is usually the answer.

When general terms are used (most, some, usually, could, might, etc) true is usually the best answer.

Exaggerated or complex answers are generally false.

Fill-in-the-blank tests:

Never leave a question blank, you might get it right, or at least partial credit.


Say as much as you can. Use short sentences and paragraphs. Write legibly. Volume, quality, and neatness pays.

Math Multiple Choice:

Don't try to solve the problem, normally there are two or three answers that are close (-5, 4.3, 2, 0.2) pick the easiest to work with of the close ones (2) and plug it in to the equation, see what you get. If wrong, use interpolation to pick another answer, you may not even have to try it out.

If you don't have time to work anything out, make guess-timates and find an answer close to your approximation.

I hope this helps, and also shows why Multiple Choice tests are suspect.

In General:

Re-read directions. Did you define terms when you were supposed to compare them? Use the entire time period to double check, there are no points for finishing first.

Answers quite often pop up in other questions; keep that in mind.

First impressions are often best. If an answer comes to you from 'out of the blue', its probably your right brain at work. Don't fight this intuition unless you're sure it's wrong.

When a question is difficult to visualize, draw it.