Test Taking

Test Taking Strategies

Read the directions carefully 

  • This may be obvious, but it will help you avoid careless errors.  If there is time, quickly look through the test for an overview
  • Note key terms and jot down brief notes.
Answer questions in a strategic order:
  • First easy questions to build confidence, score points, and mentally orient yourself to vocabulary, concepts, and your studies (it may help you make associations with more difficult questions).  Then difficult questions or those with the most point value.
  • With objective tests, first eliminate those answers you know to be wrong, or are likely to be wrong, don't seem to fit, or where two options are so similar as to be both incorrect.  With essay/subjective questions, broadly outline your answer and sequence the order of your points. 


  • Resist the urge to leave as soon as you have completed all the items.
  • Review your test to make sure that you have answered all questions, not mismarked the answer sheet, or made some other simple mistake.
  • Proofread your writing for spelling, grammar, punctuation, decimal points, etc.
  • Change answers to questions if you originally misread them or if you have encountered information elsewhere in the test that indicates that your first choice is incorrect, otherwise leave your original answer.
  • Decide on and adopt study strategies that worked best for you.  Identify those that didn't work well and replace them
Adapted from Study Guides and Strategies

Answering options: Improve your odds, think critically

Cover the options, read the stem, and try to answer
  • Select the option that most closely matches your answer
Read the stem with each option
  • Treat each option as a true-false question, and choose the "most true"

Strategies to answer difficult questions

Eliminate options you know to be incorrect 

  • If allowed, mark words or alternatives in questions that eliminate the option.
Give each option of a question the "true-false test:"
  • This may reduce your selection to the best answer.
Question options that grammatically don't fit with the stem.


Question options that are totally unfamiliar to you.


Question options that contain negative or absolute words. 

  • Try substituting a qualified term for the absolute one, like frequently for always; or typical for every to see if you can eliminate it.
"All of the above:"
  • If you know two of three options seem correct, "all of the above" is a strong possibility.
Double negatives:
  • Create the equivalent positive statement and consider.
Favor options that contain qualifiers
  • The result is longer, more inclusive items that better fill the role of the answer.  If two alternatives seem correct, compare them for differences, then refer to the stem to find your best answer
Adapted from Study Guides and Strategies


Always guess when there is no penalty for guessing.

Don't guess if you are penalized for guessing and if you have no basis for your choice.  Use hints from questions you know to answer questions you do not.  

Change your first answers only when you are sure of the correction, or other cues in the test cue you to change.

Adapted from Study Guides and Strategies