Hi everyone, today we are going to learn MCQ Test Strategies for Language. I am going to share with you four essential strategies that you need to know to do well in the MCQ Test.

1. The Strategy of Looking for the Main Ideas of the Passage

You can use the following tips to find the main idea of the passage;

  • identify the topic
  • summarize the passage
  • look at the first and last sentence
  • look for repetition of ideas

If you have a time problem, you can use just the third one (look at the first and last sentence) to save time. Because authors often put the main idea in or near either the first or last sentence of the paragraph.

So, if you encounter main idea questions, reread the first and last sentences, and skip sentences in the middle.

Sometimes the author will use words like but in contrastnevertheless, etc. indicates that the second sentence is the main idea. If you see one of these words that negate or qualifies the first sentence, the second sentence is the main idea1.

2. Going Back to the Text

If you know the purpose of any work you are doing, it becomes easier to do it. If you read the question stem first, the brain will automatically try to understand and solve it while reading the passage.

When you read the stem of the question, you understand what kind of question you will solve. If you look at the options before reading the paragraph, you can easily understand what is asked.

NOTE: This is one of the best strategies used by many students. Students read the question first and then read the passage; they check the options at the last step.

3. Strategy for Pronoun Reference Questions

Pronoun reference questions ask students to choose an antecedent of a target pronoun in a reading passage.

Test takers ask to select the option containing the noun or phrase referenced by the targeted pronoun.

The answer to a reference question is always be stated before the pronoun. If you cannot find the correct pronoun, you need to look at two or three sentences before the pronoun or in the same sentence.

The target pronoun rarely occurs after the pronoun in question2.

4. Match the Option With the Stem

This strategy was found by Alfridan (2011) when they examined two Saudi EFL learners while doing a language test3.

According to this MCQ test strategy, you can find the correct answer by matching the word given in the option with the stem.

If there is no distortion in the meaning of the sentence, your answer is correct—an example is given below.

5. The Strategy of Using Context Clues to Find the Answer

“Using the context clues” is one of the most commonly used strategies by students to figure out the meaning of an unknown word.

Context hints are words in a paragraph or sentence that help the reader infer an unfamiliar phrase’s meaning.

Many sentences and paragraphs provide enough details for you to use the hints that the writer has left to find out the meaning of a lot of words you don’t know. A sample question is given below.


Example: All the train service to and from London were _________ because of the heavy thunderstorm.

  1. Debated
  2. Canceled
  3. Benefited
  4. advised

The correct answer is (b) because there is a relationship between canceled and the world thunderstorm.

Using contextual clues to infer meaning is a widely used strategy in test situations4 (Cohen & Upton 2007).

6. Answer the Question Without Reading the Passage

This strategy is used on items that require knowledge that might be independent of the passages.

The test taker considers the options without going through the text. The most important feature of this strategy is saving time, but educators do not recommend it.


    1. Roell, K., “How to Find the Main Idea.” Thoughtco., dash, (03 july 2019), https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-find-the-main-idea-3212047
    2. HARDIN, K., “TOEFL Reading Question Type – Reference.” Magoosh TOEFL Blog, (1 April 2014), https://magoosh.com/toefl/2014/toefl-reading-question-type-reference/
    3. Assiri, Mohammed & Alodhahi, Emad. (2018). Test-taking Strategies on Reading Comprehension Tests: A Review of Major Research Themes. Studies in English Language Teaching. 6. 207. 10.22158/selt.v6n3p207.