Mastering multiple-choice tests

Multiple-choice tests can be overwhelming — but they don't have to be! Improve your performance in these tests by addressing some misconceptions and learning specific test-taking strategies.
March 18, 2022

Misconceptions about multiple-choice tests

This isn’t necessarily true. Don’t rely on the fact that the answer is already on the page. You still need to think critically to choose the correct answer.

Avoid simply testing yourself; ensure you learn the underlying principles. 

Changing your answer is okay. Trust your thought process.  

Tips and strategies

  • Read carefully! This means  reading every single word in each question, even if this feels unnatural.  
  • Circle words that change the meaning of the question (i.e., “all,” “some,” “only,” “unless”).  
  • Slow down and ensure you answer the question.  
  • Start with questions you know to boost your confidence for harder ones.  This can spark memories that help you answer harder questions.  
  • Eliminate wrong answers using logic.  Use the process of elimination, which includes eliminating answers that are essentially the same.  
  • As long as there’s no penalty for incorrect answers, it’s better to guess than leave a question blank.  
  • Use the “cover up” method. Cover the choices and mentally respond as if you’re completing a short-answer question. Then, weigh the options against what you thought the answer was.  

Remember, multiple-choice tests aren’t inherently easier than other tests. And this varies from student to student. These tests provide specific challenges that you can overcome with study practices that encourage processing, not just memorization. 

Palmer, D. (1999). Succeeding in tests and exams. Unpublished manuscript, Centre for Student Development, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

Palmer, D. (1999). Multiple choice tests. Unpublished manuscript, Centre for Student Development, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

Rutgers University (n.d.). Multiple-choice exams: Myths, misconceptions, and how to conquer them. Retrieved from 

Get personalized, one-on-one academic support

You can improve your grades and develop the skills you need to succeed in university with help from one-on-one appointments. The academic skills team is here to help.

  • Academic coaching (30 minutes): Meet with an upper-year academic coach to create a study plan, chat about test-taking strategies and learn how to use your lecture notes to study. Learn about academic coaching.
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