Strategy for Multiple-Choice Test

Passing a Multiple Choice Written Test

I always tell my students that multiple choice tests are the easiest tests to take. After all, the answer is right there. All you have to do is choose the correct answer! Easier said than done for most. However, if you follow the strategies outlined here, you will learn how to take and PASS this type of test.

The key for any test is to read the question slowly and carefully. It is a good idea to cover up the choices and just spend a minute or two thinking about the question and what it is asking, before being distracted by the possible answers. Look for key words in the question. Is it asking you what WOULD you do? Or is it asking you what would you NOT do? Understanding what the question is actually asking is crucial to choosing the correct answer.

Now, again, before peeking at the possible answers, ask yourself what you think the answer might be.
eg) A person drives well if he or she:
How would you finish this sentence? Some quick answers that come to mind are:
* if he or she practices driving
* if he or she gets behind the wheel and spends time driving
* if he or she pays attention to others on the road
* if he or she watches out for bad drivers

Once you have come up with ideas on your own, then it is time to look at the choices given to you. Here is where we like to introduce the "Garbage can method". Imagine that you are sorting through a pile of mail and are trying to decide what to keep and what to throw away. Bills you would set aside and keep. Maybe you have a box or file folder for these. Junk mail -advertisements, flyers, etc. - would go straight into the garbage. A sales flyer for K-Mart might interest you so before throwing it into the garbage you set it aside to read later. Soon you have all your mail sorted into three piles: definitely keep, possibly keep, and garbage.

The same system can be applied to a multiple choice question. In our above example we had a question that said:
A person drives well if he or she:
Possible answers that are given are:
a) has an instruction permit
b) passes a written examination
c) has a good deal of actual driving practice
d) has automobile insurance

As I sort through these choices I am going to treat each choice as an individual and ask myself does this make sense? Can it be true? Let's take choice (a) has an instruction permit. This is one I might put into the pile to consider further. I might choose this but I need to read further and narrow down the choices. After all, does having an instruction permit really mean a person can drive? Or does it mean they just passed their written test, and haven't had time to get out on the road and drive yet? I'm not ready to reject this answer just yet. I want more information. On to the next choice.
(b) passes a written examination
Let's see, passing a written test does not require any driving. In fact, until you pass the test and get your permit, you shouldn't be doing any driving at all, so I'm comfortable with throwing this one into the garbage. Next.
(c) has a good deal of actual driving practice
Hey, this one matches with the answers I had thought of! It includes the concept of having practice driving. So I'm going to set this one aside as a possible answer. I can't choose it as a for sure answer until I have finished reading all the choices. This is a common mistake most people make - choosing an answer before considering all the choices. So now let's read the last choice.
(d) has automobile insurance
What in the world does this have to do with driving? All this means is that I have complied with the law and insured a vehicle. I guess some could argue that in order to insure a vehicle you must have a license but that is a technicality I'm going to pass on right now. Having insurance on a car does not mean you can drive, so into the garbage it goes.

As you can see here I have narrowed down my choices. I have thrown (b) and (d) into the garbage and now have to decide whether to choose (a) or (c). Looking back at my arguments I realize that (c) makes the most sense. After all, (a) has an instruction permit - simply means the student has passed a written test and earned their permit. It is essentially the same as (b) passing a written test which I threw into the garbage. So (a) is thrown out and I'm left holding (c) as my preferred answer. Which, by the way, is the correct one.

See how this all worked? You can apply this principle to any multiple choice question.

Another trick with multiple choice questions concerns All of the Above Choices. It is amazing how often people will get this one wrong. It's almost as if they are afraid to choose that answer. But guess what? For some reason, 90% of the time, if all of the above is a choice IT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER! Yup, 9 out of 10 questions that have (d) All of the above, it will be the correct answer. Here's what I tell students to do with questions that have an all of the above choice. READ the other three choices carefully. THINK about the answers. Can you agree with at least 2 of them? Then chances are the 3rd one is true too. So therefore, the answer must be All of the above. Let's look at an example for this.

eg) You should never drive when
(a) you are feeling sick, tired, sleepy, angry or emotionally upset
(b) you are under sedatives or other hazardous drugs
(c) you've had even ONE DRINK!
(d) all of the above.

Again we use our garbage can method to decide what answers to keep and what ones to throw into the garbage.
(a)you are feeling sick, tired, sleepy, angry or emotionally upset seems a little extreme. Should you really NEVER drive when you are having these feelings? I mean, let's be honest, there are many times when we aren't feeling that great but we have to drive anyway. The question here, though, is more of is it a good idea to drive under these circumstances? I would venture to say that it is probably not, but I'm still not sure about this one so it goes in my "to be sorted later" box.
(b) you are under sedatives or other hazardous drugs seems pretty obvious to me! Driving under the influence of sedatives or drugs sounds pretty scary to me so I want to say "yes" to this one. Except I still have another choice to read so I shouldn't stop here.
(c) you've had even ONE DRINK! The capitalization of these last two words catches my eye right away. It makes me remember all the drunk driving commercials you see and the warnings that are posted everywhere. I'm guessing this is a "yes" answer too. So now I have positively identified two out of the three choices as being correct. If I choose one over the other, then I am saying that the one I don't choose is wrong and should be thrown in the garbage. If you don't choose it, you are throwing it in the garbage. Don't throw it in the garbage unless it is garbage! You will get the answer wrong. Because (b) and (c) are both very obviously true, you do not choose one over the other. Therefore, logically, it makes sense that all of them have to be true so I need to choose (d) all of the above.

If English is your second language and the big words confuse you, you should make a list of words and phrases you don't understand and have someone help you. Have them explain not only the meaning of the words, but the context of the word or phrase.

There are also certain words and phrases that are in the answers that are what I call "red flags" and are to be avoided. For instance, when asking a question about driving, if one of the answers tells you to "speed up" then throw that answer in the garbage. Never will the Gov't of Guam handbook tell you to speed up to accomplish something out there on the road. Another phrase to avoid is "you have the right". Driving is a privilege, not a right. Therefore you have NO rights when it comes to driving. So a choice that tells you "you have the right to go if the light is green" will be a wrong choice. You can only "go" on a green light when it is SAFE to go. Another word to avoid is the word "swerve". Swerving implies having no control of your vehicle. And when your are driving you must have control of your vehicle at all times. So if you read a question that asks you "what do you do when you see someone stepping out of a parked car?" and one of the answer choices says "swerve around the man to avoid hitting him" do not choose that answer. It will be wrong.

There is no magic formula for passing a written test. All that is required is for you to be familiar with the Gov't of Guam Drivers Handbook, to understand the rules of the road and to read the questions carefully! Think logically, apply some of the hints and tips I have supplied you with here and you should be able to ace that test. Good luck!


Now let's try your new skills on a couple of questions.
Apply the techniques above to choose the best answer.

When approaching a red light, you should:
(a) If there is no stop line, stop before the crosswalk
(b) Stop at the line
(c) If there is no stop line or painted crosswalk lines, stop before entering the intersection.
(d) All of the above

OK, first thing, you can get it right by automatically choosing "all of the above". But that's cheating. Let's apply some step by step thinking here.
Remember you should look at each line separately, on its own. So let's look at (a) If there is no stop line, stop before the crosswalk.

Questions to ask yourself about this possible answer: Does it apply? Does it make sense? Is it true? First, we want to understand the question and the answer. You are approaching a red light at an intersection. Red light means STOP, so you will have to stop. Where will you stop? Well, the answer says there is no stop line. So that means you will stop somewhere, but not at the stop line, 'cause there isn't one. So where would you stop? Seems to me that you would stop before entering the crosswalk. After all, crosswalks are for people to walk in. Don't run over people and then stop. So, yes, (a) makes sense. It does apply. It is true. Do not throw it in the garbage. Do not choose (a) yet. Save it for later.

Now we look at (b). Stop at the line. I think we can assume it is the stop line referred to here. And yes, you would stop at the stop line. Notice it's called a stop line, not a go-right-past-it line. It is called a stop line because that is where you are supposed to stop. So (b) is an excellent answer.
Now you can see that 2 of 3 possible answers are true so by now we see that "all of the above" will likely be our best bet. But let's look at (c) and see if it makes sense.

(c) If there is no stop line or painted crosswalk lines, stop before entering the intersection.
Well, you got to stop somewhere, so it makes sense to stop before you hit cars in the intersection. So, yeah, it will be all of the above.

If this seems too obvious, it's not. Way too many students get this one wrong because they choose (b). It is a bit confusing because these are out of order; they are not presented in a sensible progression. Read the whole thing and don't throw away anything that is not garbage. Remember that and you can get 100% on a multiple choice test.

One more question to practice multiple-choice strategy. This is an easy one, but go through the process with me so you can see the method for choosing the best answer.

If you approach a school bus with red lights flashing, you must:
(a) Slow down and approach with caution
(b) Come to a complete stop and then proceed with caution
(c) Move to the extreme left-hand side of the road and slow down before proceeding
(d) Come to a complete stop and proceed when the red lights are no longer flashing

Remember earlier I said to ask yourself what you know about it and then find the answer that correctly matches what you know is true.
Try this: Pretend it's a fill in the blanks question. If you approach a school bus with red lights flashing, you must __________________.

What would be the single word you would put in that blank? The school bus has RED lights flashing. Red light means STOP.
Yes, the best single word to put in the blank is STOP.

So then you find the best, most correct answer that matches what you know. (a) does not even include the word STOP. It is garbage. Throw it away. (b) includes the word STOP, so save it for later. Maybe something better will come along, maybe not. (c) is extra-ridiculous and it does not include the word STOP. Garbage. (d) Says STOP and go when lights are no longer flashing. So it goes on our short list.

Now we choose between (b) and (d). Which is more correct? (d) is the best answer. It is the most correct answer of the two. It is the BEST answer.

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