Test Taking Strategies

Most standardized tests employ multiple-choice questions. Here’s a list of test-taking strategies that students should use to answer multiple-choice questions:

  • Read the entire question first. Students read the entire question first to make sure they understand what it’s asking. For questions about a reading passage, students read the questions first to guide their reading.
  • Look for key words in the question. Students identify key words in the question, such as compare, except, and author’s intent, that will guide them to choose the correct answer.
  • Read all answer choices before choosing the correct answer. After students read the question, they stop and think about the answer before reading all the possible answers. Then they eliminate the unlikely answer choices and identify the correct answer.
  • Answer easier questions first. Students answer the questions they know, skipping the difficult ones, and then they go back and answer the questions they skipped.
  • Make smart guesses. When students don’t know the answer to a question, they make a smart guess, unless there’s a penalty for guessing. To make a smart guess, students eliminate the answer choices they’re sure are wrong, think about what they know about the topic, and then pick the best remaining answer choice. The correct answer is often the longest one.
  • Stick with your first answer. Students shouldn’t second-guess themselves; their first answer is probably right. They shouldn’t change answers unless they’re certain that their first answer was wrong.
  • Pace yourself. Students budget their time wisely so they’ll be able to finish the test. They don’t spend too much time on any one question.
  • Check your work carefully. Students check that they’ve answered every question, if they finish early.
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Author: Karen Stroud

Membership Services Coordinator for Professional Educators of Tennessee, retired public & private school teacher for 31 years, mother, and grandmother.

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