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 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 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 third and final article in the series, and it discusses tips for making informed guesses on objective-style exam questions.

To read the first article in the series, which offered tips for reducing test-taking anxiety, click here. To read the second article, which covers strategies for taking true/false and multiple-choice exams, click here

Tips for making informed guesses on objective-style exams

  • Whenever you’re faced with a question you don’t know the answer to, always provide an answer, even if it’s just a guess. Answer all of the questions you know first, and then at the end, go back and guess on those you’re unfamiliar with.
  • On true/false exams, if you don’t know the answer, mark it true. Statistically, there are typically more true questions on exams than false.
  • On true/false exams, questions that feature absolute statements with words (including, “all,” “none,” “always,” “never,” “no one,” “everyone,” “certainly,” “absolutely,” etc.) are usually false.
  • Similarly, true/false questions that feature guarded statements with words (such as “usually,” “often,” “sometimes,” “most of the time,” “seldom,” “unlikely,” “probably,” etc.) are usually true.
  • On multiple-choice exams, always cross out the answer choices you know are not correct, so you can narrow down the possibilities and increase your chances of guessing correctly.
  • On multiple choice exams, longer answer choices with lots of descriptive detail are usually correct. Conversely, shorter answer choices are often created by test makers to throw you off and are typically false.
  • On multiple choice exams, if there is an “all of the above” option, that’s usually the correct answer.
  • On multiple choice exams, if there is a “none of the above” option, that’s usually an incorrect answer choice.
  • On multiple choice exams, funny answer choices are typically incorrect. Test makers sometimes include these choices as a way use to make questions more entertaining.
  • As with true/false exams, multiple-choice questions that contain answer choices with qualifying words that are guarded (such as “usually,” “often,” “sometimes,” “most of the time,” “seldom,” “unlikely,” “probably,” etc.) are usually correct.
  • Similarly, multiple-choice questions that contain answer choices with qualifying words that are absolutes (including “all,” “none,” “always,” “never,” “no one,” “everyone,” “certainly,” “absolutely,” etc.) are usually incorrect.
  • If everything else fails and you’re faced with a multiple-choice question that has you completely stumped, select either B or C as your answer choice. Statistically, these answer choices are correct more often than the other choices.
  • If you’re faced with no time to make an informed guess, pick one answer choice and use it as the answer to all of the questions you’re forced to guess. So if you pick B as your answer choice, use it on all of the questions you guess on.

Note: These guessing strategies don’t work always work and are simply provided to help you make the most-educated guesses possible. There is no substitute for thoroughly studying the material.

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.