When it comes time to take the exam for your home study course, you should obviously study as much as you can to guarantee the best chances of success. But sometimes, you can study your butt off and still do poorly on an exam—and it’s not because you’re a bad student. Many people are simply not good at taking tests, and this is often due to anxiety, a lack of familiarity with test-taking skills or both.

Although most tests don’t feature authentic trick questions, certain types of exams, such as true/false and multiple choice, can be difficult to answer if you aren’t aware of the common strategies used by instructors to make the questions more challenging. Similarly, if you suffer from test-taking anxiety and fail to adequately address your nervousness, you’ll be more likely to make careless errors, fail to recall what you’ve memorized and/or not finish the test within the required time period.

Fortunately, there are several easy ways to minimize test-taking anxiety and prepare for even the most challenging types of questions. This series of articles will provide you with a wide variety of tips and strategies for doing both, while also offering advice for making educated guesses when you’re faced with exam questions for which you have no answer. This is the second article in the series, and it provides strategies for taking objective-style exams, such as true/false and multiple choice.

To read the first article in the series, which offers tips for reducing test-taking anxiety, click here.

Strategies for taking true/false and multiple-choice exams

  • Whether the test is true/false or multiple choice, make sure you carefully read the entire question and all potential answers before you make your choice. Often, questions that appear really easy at first glance will contain hidden details designed to trip up those who fail to closely read everything.
  • On both types of tests, if you encounter a tricky question or one with really complicated wording, try to rewrite the question in your own words before answering.
  • On both types of tests, it helps to underline key words in the question in order to quickly compare them to each of the answer choices.
  • On true/false exams, assume the question is true at first, and then carefully read the statement, looking for any part that is false. If any detail of the statement is false, then the answer must be false.
  • On true/false exams, pay close attention to negative modifiers, such as the word “not”, and negative prefixes, such as “un,” as in the word “unhappy.” These words and prefixes completely alter the meaning of statements, so always read such statements extra carefully.
  • On multiple-choice exams, first try to answer the question in your head before looking at the answer choices.
  • On multiple-choice exams, read through all of the answers and cross out choices you know are incorrect. Through the process of elimination, you should be able to whittle your answer choices down to one or two selections, dramatically increasing you odds.
  • Watch out for the answer choices “all of the above” and “none of the above” on multiple-choice exams. In each case, carefully go through each one of the answer choices to make sure they’re either all correct (all of the above) or all incorrect (none of the above).
  • On multiple-choice exams, pay close attention to answer choices that are opposite or very similar to one another. This usually indicates that one of the choices is the correct answer.
  • Watch for grammatical correctness in both the question and the answer. For example, if the question ends with the word “an,” then the answer will start with a vowel.
  • Multiple choice exams will often have several questions covering one topic. In such cases, you can use the answers from questions you know are correct to help you answer those you are unsure of.

Check back next week for tips that will boost your chances of success when guessing the answer to questions that have you totally stumped.

Chris Towery is the former associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and is currently a full-time freelance journalist. He has written hundreds of articles for more than 20 different magazines, newspapers and custom publishers. Much of his recent writing has been for the complementary and alternative health-care industry. To contact Towery, e-mail cmreuben@yahoo.com.