Tips for Taking Multiple Choice Tests: Test Writing Strategies That are Evil

You can download a copy of the entire set of tips here:Tips for taking Multiple Choice Tests

And finally, a word (okay, lots of words!) about the psychology of testing:

  1. Notice how the test itself is constructed based on the pattern of question item difficulty. On standardized tests, there are usually FOUR levels of difficulty for the multiple choice sections: rather easy, somewhat easy, rather difficult, and very difficult. Many standardized tests are also tests of your endurance and mental toughness. The test writers will sometimes deliberately organize these four types of questions according to certain patterns:

Strategy 1: Start with mostly easy questions and get progressively harder with the most difficult questions at the end. They may throw in a hard one here or there, but the general pattern is progressive intensity.
Solutions: Make sure you use your time wisely, and pace yourself, because this will wear you down once you get past the halfway point unless you remember to use the other strategies mentioned above.

Strategy 2: Create subsets of progressively difficult questions to slow you down and make it harder for you to finish the test. This strategy also means that if you are not time conscious and allow yourself to get bogged down, you will miss out on answering some easy questions later in the test, which would have boosted your score. So here’s how they do this: Say you are taking an 80 question test. They will create ten groups of 8 questions, with the first two questions rather easy, the next two a bit harder, the next two somewhat difficult, and the next two very difficult. Then the pattern will begin again. The overall strategy is to make you obsess over the harder ones, and slow down.
Solutions: Use the strategies above, but if you can’t find the answer within 30 seconds or so, skip that question and go on to the next one. Make sure you get through the entire test, answering all those easier ones, and then go back and attack the harder ones. But be mindful of the time! Also make sure you don’t get off track in the bubbling of your answers.

Strategy 3: Start off with difficult questions and get progressively easier. Once again, they are trying to break you psychologically and make you give up. Once you start panicking, you will miss questions you normally would have gotten right because your brain is being flooded with panic signals. You may even stop recognizing easy questions.
Solutions: If this seems to be the case, try starting from the back of the test and working backwards from there. Or try going to the middle of the test, working forward to the end, and then working backward toward the front. But whatever you do, don’t just sit there and allow yourself to get freaked out. Remind yourself that you have got this, that you have prepared, and that you laugh in the face of their pitiful little ploys. Sneer, and move on.

Strategy 4: Start off easy, and then bam! in the middle drop in the hard questions. They’re trying to do the same thing that I described in strategy 3—make you panic and give up.
Solutions: Once you realize this, you don’t have to waste a lot of time trying to figure out where the nightmare section ends. Skip to the end and work backward from there. Remember to keep track of the time, and don’t let one or two or five questions suck up all your time.

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