Academic Resource Center


Test Taking

Strategies For Any Test

  • Arrive on time
  • Write down memory cues in the margin or on the back of your test Facts, formulas, dates, names, terms, etc. that you might forget
  • Survey the test
  • Read and follow directions—ask for an explanation for anything you don’t understand
  • Plan and use all of your time Spend the most time answering questions that are worth the most points. Save a few minutes to proofread your test and answer any multiple choice questions you may have skipped. Use all of your time, even if you don’t need it.

Answer questions you are sure of first. Put a * next to those you are unsure of and a check next to those you don’t know at all. Answer the * items second, then the checked items.

True-False Questions

If you don’t know the answer, make an “informed guess”

  • True-false tests often contain more true than false answers. Mark a statement true unless you know it’s false.
  • If a statement contains absolute qualifiers, assume it’s false.
  • If a statement contains relative qualifiers, assume it’s true.
  • Assume a statement is false if any part of it is false.
  • When a true-false question states a reason, it is more likely to be false.

Multiple Choice Questions

  • If you know the material, answer the question in your mind then read all the options and choose the correct one.
  • If you know the material but can’t answer the question in your mind, eliminate the options you know are incorrect and choose the answer from those remaining.
  • If you don’t know the material, or can’t figure out the answer, guess.
  • Options that contain the phrases “all of the above” or “none of the above” are frequently the correct choices.
  • If two options are similar, one of the options is probably the correct answer.
  • If one option is more complete or contains more information than the others, it may be the correct one.
  • An option that contains an absolute word is probably a distracter, an incorrect answer.
  • An option containing an unfamiliar word may be a distracter—when you are guessing, you are more likely to choose the right answer if you choose an option that is familiar.
  • If the list of options is a list of numbers, middle numbers tend to be correct answers—the highest and lowest numbers tend to be distracters.

Essay Questions (Short Answer)

  • Read the question carefully and make sure you understand what is being asked.
  • Watch for instruction words.
  • Answer the question briefly and precisely.
  • Stay on the topic and avoid stating your opinion, unless the question asks you to do so.
  • Restate the question in your answer. This makes it easier to read and follow your explanation.

If you don’t know the answer, move on to another question. Information from another question may jog your memory. Don’t leave a question unanswered—try to write something.

Essay Questions (Long Answer)

  • Read the question carefully. Watch for instruction words and make sure you understand what you’re being asked to do. Ask for clarification if necessary.
  • Think about and plan your answer, allowing enough time to write thoughtfully.
  • Outline your answer before you begin to write.
  • Incorporate the question into your first sentence, and briefly state your answer to the question.
  • Develop the points that explain your answer and provide enough details to show your understanding of the material.
  • Allow enough time to proofread and correct grammatical or spelling errors.
  • If time is running out, outline the remaining answer(s) to demonstrate to your instructor that you do have knowledge of the material.

Adapted from: Carol Kanar’s The Confident Student, Third Edition, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.