Test Taking Strategies

by Carol Chandler-Wood

There are various types of objective tests that students take while in school: matching, fill-in-the-blanks, true/false, and multiple choice.  Objective tests require students to recall specific factual information such as definitions, dates, people, places, and events. 

When taking any objective test, follow these general rules:

  • Determine how many questions there are and how much time is allowed.
  • Estimate how much time to spend on each question.
  • When beginning the test, always read all of the directions.
  • Answer the easiest questions first.  Go back later to the more difficult ones.
  • Unless there is a penalty for wrong answers, make an educated guess since partial credit may be given.
  • If taking a scantron test, be sure to bubble correctly.

Additional strategies for taking each type of objective test follow:

Matching Tests

  • Count the choices in each column.  If one column has more choices than the other, work the column with fewer choices first.
  • If both columns have the same number, first work the column with the explanations because they may contain clues.
  • When choosing an answer, cross it out to avoid having to read the choice again.

Fill-in-the Blank Tests

  • Read the first statement.  If you know the missing information that will make the statement true, write the answer in the blank provided.
  • If unsure of the answer, skip the statement and go to the next one.  Sometimes the answer needed will be contained in other statements.
  • After completing all the statements possible, go back to the statements left blank and look for key words.  This can help jar your memory to recall facts from class notes or the textbook.
  • If a word bank containing all possible answer is provided, cross out each word after using it.

True/False Tests

  • True/false questions often contain clues to help determine whether they are true or false.  Some key words make the statement always true, sometimes true, or never true.  Since there are few absolutes in the world, words that mean “all” or “never” usually signal that the statement is false.  Become familiar with these words:
    Some words are more often found in true statements:
  • Look at the sequence of the statements.  The facts may be accurate, but the order may cause the statement to be false.  Example: The President following Richard Nixon was John F. Kennedy.
  • Sometimes a true statement will be reworded so that positive words replace negative ones or vice versa.  Example:  If your text book read, “The soldier did not wish to return to the frontlines,” but the test statement reads, “The soldier wanted to get back to the battle front,” the statement is false.
  • In order to be true, the entire statement must be true.  If any part of the statement is false, mark the answer false.

Multiple Choice Tests

  • Read the first question and attempt to predict an answer before reading the answer choices.
  • Read all answer choices and eliminate all impossible answers (cross them out).
  • Choose the answer that makes the most sense.  Make sure it answers the question and relates to the topic and details studies.
  • Negative words such as “which ONE is not a reason” or “all of the following are included EXCEPT…” seem difficult because it is easier to recall facts that are included in what has been read.  Read each answer choice and decide if that fact was included.  Eliminate those, and only one answer should be left.

By utilizing the above strategies when taking the various types of objective tests, your stress levels should decrease and grades improve!  When taking subjective assessments, such as essay tests, there are other strategies to use which are not mentioned in this article.  For information on how to prepare for and take essay tests, you may e-mail me at carol@totallearningconcepts.com