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Strategies for How to Answer Multiple Choice Questions


a confident female student fills out a test answer sheet while a duck watches

Multiple choice questions are a common challenge for students. They show up on in-class quizzes, final exams, and standardized tests. Learning strategies for how to answer multiple choice questions can help you improve your grades and make tests less stressful. 


A multiple choice question is any question that asks you to choose one answer from a list of options. Options like “both A and B," or “All of the Above” can make these questions a little more challenging.


Example for Learning How to Answer Multiple Choice Questions


We’ll use the following multiple choice question as a practical example.


The duck is classified as what class of animal?

(a) Mammal

(b) Reptile

(c) Bird

(d) Amphibian

(e) All of the Above


The answer might be obvious to you. In that case, answer the question and move on. Answering all of the questions you know for sure is usually a good strategy. That way, you get all the points you can before spending time on questions that are more difficult. 


Let’s assume you’ve answered all the easy questions and we just have the hard ones left. Here’s a process you might use to find answers. 


Step 1: Get Focused

Tests are already stressful. Realizing you don't know the answer to one or more questions can make you feel worse. You could spend the rest of the test time panicking, instead of thinking critically and doing your best. 


That’s why the first step is to take a deep breath and get yourself focused. Remind yourself that you have a strategy to use. Taking a minute or two to calm down now can help you get a better grade.


Ready? Let’s do it.


Step 2: Eliminate Obvious Wrong Answers


First, look for answers you know are wrong. You remember from biology class that mammals do not lay eggs. You also know that ducks do lay eggs. That means the answer can’t be a) Mammal.


You can also cross out another answer e) All of the Above, because at least one of the possible answers is wrong. That leaves us with just three options to choose from.


(a) Mammal

(b) Reptile

(c) Bird

(d) Amphibian

(e) All of the Above


Step 3: List What You Know


You can’t remember what kind of animal a duck is, but you probably know something about ducks. Make a list of what you know.


Ducks…

  • Are commonly found near water

  • Lay eggs on land

  • Have feathers

  • Migrate


Do the characteristics of ducks match the characteristics of birds, reptiles or amphibians? Reptiles have scaly skin, while ducks have feathers. So we can cross out b) Reptile. 


(a) Mammal

(b) Reptile

(c) Bird

(d) Amphibian

(e) All of the Above


See if you can use the same strategy to choose between your final two options. You can also make a list of what you know about each of the remaining answers. Then, compare the lists to see which ones have the most in common.


Step 4: Choose Your Answer


You may have used the strategy above to find the right answer, or you might still be stuck with two possibilities. Many tests are designed to offer two options that are closely related, but only one is correct! 


At this point, you might have to guess. That may not be ideal, but at least you’ve narrowed your choices down from five to two. That means you’ve increased your odds of picking the right answer. 


Always Answer All Multiple Choice Questions


Before you submit your test, double-check that you’ve answered all of the questions. It’s rarely a good idea to leave a multiple-choice question blank. On most tests, you’ll get a zero for blank questions. You might still get a zero if you answer wrong, but at least you have a chance of choosing the right one.


Having a strategy can make tests less stressful and help you do your best. Managing your emotions and using positive self-talk is always the first step.


For more strategies that can help you handle challenges and succeed at your goals, become a LeadYouth member. We teach the skills that will help you be a successful person, confident leader, and compelling speaker. Learn more about LeadYouth. 


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