A Christian College of the Liberal Arts & Sciences

Multiple-Choice and True/False Tests

These tips will help you ace those tricky multiple choice and true/false tests.

Study Tips:

Know exactly what material the test will cover.  Study everything in those areas.

Study for recall rather than recognition.  Do not depend on your ability to “know the answer when you see it.”  Professors often create answer choices that are so much alike it is difficult to recognize the correct answer.  You must know the correct answer to perform well on the test.

Study to apply and/or analyze a concept to a new situation or scenario.  Multiple-choice and True/False are not just factual questions; they are also application questions.

Study in groups.  It is important that the group has a common mission – to study, otherwise the groups study method will not work.  The goal of group members should be to quiz one another and answer questions aloud.  Don’t settle for “Oh, I know that answer, I just have to study it a little more.”  Get the information from your notes and then look away and repeat it 2 or 3 times.  Teaching one another the information helps transfer the information into long-term memory, thus recall becomes much simpler.

Items to study:

  • Key terms, definitions and examples
  • Lists of items:  specific details as well as major concepts
  • Points emphasized in class
  • Review the Study Guides
  • Questions in past quizzes and at the end of textbook chapters

Review frequently.  Studying for multiple-choice tests and true/false tests requires systematic study habits.  Reviewing your notes for 10 minutes a day during the weeks between tests will do more to prepare you for the test than cramming 8 hours the night before the exam.  Discipline yourself to review and recite information each day.  It will save you a lot of frustration the night before the test.

Have all your assigned reading completed 5-6 days prior to the test.  With your assigned reading completed, you will be able to spend quality time the last few days before the exam studying and reciting the information you will be tested on.  The 10 minute review sessions provide you with a basis for studying, but the hard core studying should begin 6-7 days prior to the exam day.  With your reading completed, you will not be frantically skimming the unread chapters and using that as study time.

Tip:  Plan your reading efficiently.  Don’t try to read hundreds of pages in one night.  You won’t comprehend the information.  Instead, take the number of pages (p) you have to read for the next test and divide it by the number of days (d) you have before the test [minus the hard core study days (s)].  The answer will give you the number of pages you need to read each day (n).  If you stick to the reading schedule, you will complete your
reading and have plenty of time to study.  p/(d-s)=n 250 pages/(20 days before the exam – 6 days to begin hard studying)=approx 18 pages per night

Test-taking Hints:

Survey the test and budget your time.  View the number of questions: 100 questions to answer with 50 minutes to take the text means you should spend only 30 seconds on each question.  Answering some questions will not take 30 seconds; be aware however, that you can’t spend a lot of time on any one question.

Read the directions carefully to determine whether you are looking for the correct answer or the best answer.  Also check to see if some questions can have two or more correct answers.  If the directions are not clear, then ask the professor.

Begin each question by reading the stem (statement/question) all the way through, then read the options all the way through.  Spend no more than a few seconds puzzling over the question.  If it resists answering, cross out any options you can immediately eliminate and then mark the question so you will be able to find it easily later; move on to the next question.  When you have worked your way through the text, go back to the questions that you marked for reconsideration.  This time, however, concentrate on eliminating options.

How to eliminate options:

  • Apply the true/false technique:  as you complete the stem with each answer choice ask yourself if the statement is true or false.  Eliminate the false statements.
  • Stick to the subject matter of the course.  Strange options are usually distracter options and should be avoided.  Eliminate any choice that does not pertain to the course or subject of the question.
  • Watch out for negatives and extreme words.  When guessing, eliminate all options that contain absolute words such as never, no, none, best, worst, always, all, and every.  Remember most rules have an exception.  Whenever you find negative words such as not or except in the stem or in the options, circle them so they will stand out.
  • Foolish options are usually incorrect.  Most foolish statements are used to fill space.  You should usually avoid these statements.

Tips for Guessing:

  • If two answers are similar, except for one or two words, choose one of these answers.
  • If two answers have similar sounding or looking words (intermediate – intermittent), choose one of these answers.
  • If the answer calls for a sentence completion, eliminate the answers that would not form grammatically correct sentences.
  • If two quantities are almost the same, choose one.
  • If answers cover a wide range (4.5, 66.7, 9=88.7, 90.1, 500.111) choose one in the middle.
  • The correct option is often longer or more inclusive of qualities or ideas than other choices.
  • The options “all of the above” is correct whenever there is at least 2 correct options (unless the directions say there could be more than one answer).  Be careful or these types of questions.  If the professor has only put a few questions with “all of the above” option as a choice, chances are that this is the correct answer for those questions.  Otherwise, do not assume “all of the above” is the automatic choice.

Multiple-Choice Test Guide:

  • Read all the answers before making a choice, and combine each of the answers with the question to see how well they go together.
  • Use the process of elimination to narrow down choices, discard frivolous answers quickly, and make educated guesses when you are not sure.
  • Give preference to long answers, particularly those that use such qualifiers as some, usually, probably, many.
  • Be suspicious of answers that contain such absolute terms as always, never, everyone.
  • If you have no idea which is the correct answer, select one of the middle choices rather than the first or last.

 True/False Test Guide:

  • Assume statements are true.  Because it is easier to write true statements than false statements, assume the statement is true unless you can determine that it is false.  Hint:  there are usually more True statements on a T/F tests; so when you guess, guess TRUE.
  • All parts of statements must be true.   Keep in mind that for a statement to be true all parts of it must be true.  If one part of the statement is false, the whole statement is false.
  • Reasons tend to be false.  T/F questions tend to be false when they state a reason.  The words because, reason, and since often indicate a stated reason.
  • Beware of T/F statements which contain 100 % words such as all, every, always, never, no, none, every, only, entirely, best, worst, etc.  Often these statements will be false simply because there is an exception to nearly every rule.
  • Qualifying words such as seldom, sometimes, often, most, many, few, some, usually, generally, etc. are often used in true statements.
  • Watch for statements that contain more than one negative word.  Negative words include not and cannot, and the negative prefixes are dis-, il-, im-, in-, ir-, non-, and un-.  Remember:  2 negatives make a positive (example:  It is unlikely ice will not melt with the temperature rises above 32 degrees F.)
  • Read each word and number carefully.  Pay special attention to names and dates that are similar and could easily be confused.  Also, watch for numbers that contain the same numerals but in a different order. (Example:  1619 . . . 1691)

Ellis, D.B (1985).  Becoming A Master Student. 5th ed. Rapid City, South Dakota: College Survival, Inc. Pauk, W. (1989) How To Study in College., 4th ed. Boston:  Houghton Mifflin. Shepherd, J.G. (1990). College Study Skills.  4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.