Test Taking Skills – Multiple Choice

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Taking tests is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice. Kaplan, an enormous company, is successful because they have understand this and have improved test scores of multitudes of students. With high stakes testing in most schools, it is worth making sure your child knows how to take a variety of tests. Most schools do teach test-taking skills, but it doesn’t hurt to review some of the rules at home.

  1. When confronted with a multiple choice question, read it once and see if you know the answer without looking at the options. If you do, check for your answer and if it is there, select that answer. Move on.
  2. If you don’t know the answer without looking at the options, or you aren’t sure, then make sure you understand the question. First, circle the key question word. This could be “who,” “what,” “what happened,” or “how many” among many different options. That will help make sure you don’t select an answer that is close, but not quite, the answer to the question.
  3. Then, underline the key content. What is the subject or main idea of the question? Is it the “American Revolution” or “the setting of the story?” Try to figure out what the key content that is being tested could be.
  4. Read the question with just your key word and key content. Does that help you find the answer?
  5. Finally, check the answers. Read each one and see if you can eliminate any that clearly aren’t correct. This will help you narrow down the possibilities.
  6. Still stuck? Go through the question and the answers and see if you can re-write difficult or challenging words. Then, re-read the questions and answers and see if that helps.
  7. Finally, pick an answer and try to restate it as a part of the question. For example, if the question is “Who was the first president of the United States,” try to restate with your guess as “George Washington was the first president of the United States.” Does that help? Try all of your remaining answers. Select the best option.

For younger children, I narrow it down to five steps.

  1. Circle the key question word.
  2. Underline the main idea or topic.
  3. Re-write difficult words.
  4. Eliminate wrong answers.
  5. Check your answer.

Then, practice. Children should get plenty of practice at school, but if your child knows the content but still doesn’t do well on tests, you can practice at home. Still, don’t push to hard until they are older. They might not do well because of their attention span, or a lack of interest in the topic, or a lack of interest in testing! They might dislike the competitive nature or just get bored with how uninspiring a multiple choice test can be. But, it is worth keeping in mind that being able to take a multiple choice test is a good skill to have. I had to take one to get my driver’s license. You never know when you might face one and need to do well on it! You can hate testing and all that it means, but it is currently a fact of life for us. Until there are major changes in assessment on a national basis, learn to make sure your test-taking skills don’t get in the way of your success.


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