MCQ (multiple-choice questions) exams ask students to recognize the correct answer among several options that include three, four incorrect options. Olympiads, NEET, JEE, CLAT, CAT, SAT, ACT, IELTS, etc. are objective-type exams containing MCQ.

Studying for a multiple-choice exam requires a specific method of preparation. Hence, MCQ test techniques get high scores even though studying less.

The students generally consider MCQ easier than and open-ended questions. Because; The correct answer is among the possible options. A student can get points with a lucky gas. Many multiple-choice exams emphasize basic definitions or simple comparisons, rather than asking students to analyze new information or applied theories to new situations. Multiple-choice exams and true-false exams usually contain more questions than essay exams. Each question has a lower point value, therefore, offers less risk2.

MCQ Exams Can Be Difficult

However, despite these factors, MCQ exams can be very difficult. Because; MCQ exams contain many questions, it forces students to be familiar with a broader range of materials than essay exams.  MCQ exams usually expect students to be more familiar with details such as specific dates, names, or vocabulary. It is very hard for a teacher to write good MCQ; hence students often face higher risk due to unintended ambiguity.

General Rules for All Tests

  • Solve MCQ questions you can answer easily. This will boost your confidence and lower test anxiety.
  • Convert any double negatives to positives.
  • Don’t prejudge the exam. Every exam consists of easy, average, and challenging questions.
Very easy 10%
Easy 20%
Average 40%
Difficult 20%
Very difficult 10%


  • Look for and underline any distinguishing terms or phrases, particularly those linked to specific parts of the paper.
  • Carefully allocate your time, particularly if some questions are worth more than others.
  • Change the answers only if you feel strongly that your first response was


  • Practice on past exam questions if you have any chance to reach them.


Three Fundamentals in MCQ Test-Taking


You can increase your knowledge through learning, reinforced by repetition. Knowledge is the basis of all test-taking techniques. The golden rule of success is to prepare thoroughly.  


It refers to the power to develop ideas about knowledge learned and rainforest with repetition or to view information from different angles. It develops test-taking techniques.


It is the ability to reach the correct answer in a short time in the light of knowledge and interpretation. Speed helps you to use time effectively in solving questions. Solve as many different questions as possible. Every question you solve increases your experience and speed before the exam.


Touring Technique (Skip Difficult Question)

It is the method of solving the MCQ you know and leaving the ones you don’t know. It means living difficult questions for the second round. (Mark it and come back later) So, don’t stubbornly fight with a question. You should not allow yourself to be so stuck on a question that you’re running out of time.

The touring technique helps you to view every question in the test. You can put a sign or icon for the unsolved question to find easily in the second round. This technique reduces your error and helps you to save time. You can get a clue from the rest of the questions.

Touring technique, in other words skipping technique, prevents exhausting, and saves some effort for the rest of the test. This technique gives you a chance to review as many questions as possible. Skipping a difficult item is a well-known strategy in reading comprehension literature9.

Tips for Solving MCQ

Focus on what is asked in the question

As Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve the problem, I would have spent 55 minutes thinking about the question and five minutes thinking about the answer.”

Decide the answer after reading all the choices.

Sometimes you are asked for the “most correct” answer, not the “correct” answer.

Note that the options in math questions are not random options.

Answers are calculated based on processing errors. It doesn’t mean that the result you find in the choices is correct.

Incorrect choices should be eliminated.

It’s often easier to determine three incorrect answers than recognizing the single correct answer. Eliminating Incorrect options makes it easy to find the right option. Cross out any silly answers you don’t remember studying.

Remove the ridiculous choices

The higher the numbers of ridiculous choices you remove, the better you have a chance to choose the correct answer. Sometimes two options have the same meaning. In such a case, the correct answer is usually one of the other different pairs1.

Example: Setting up _______ dash is one of the first things a test-wise student should do.

  1. A pattern of correct and incorrect answers
  2. a method for determining the court of the test
  3. a reward system to be given at the end of the test
  4. a shadow of progress for completing the test

(Options a and b are similar in meaning, so both options are incorrect. C is an unreasonable option; eliminate it. Thus, the correct choice is d.)

Don’t underline every word.

This may waste your time. Underlying only the question roots and clues, you think important.

Fill answer sheet after each question.

Don’t think that it is a waste of time, to some extend rest time. A full answer sheet increases your confidence. Fatigue and distractions increase the risk of erroneous, incomplete feelings, and cause you to scroll answers.  Every year 0.5% of candidates are victims of scrolling errors.

Avoid time-consuming habits

Avoid time-consuming habits such as reading loudly, underlining each word. Solve many questions. Determine the number of questions you will solve in a day and increase this number every 15 days.

Search for negative words

Look for negative or extreme words. (i.e., not, most, list, except, never). If you see words like most and least, there could be only one answer, all of the above options exactly not the correct choice. If two answers are opposite, one of them probably is correct.

Avoid definitive words-sentence

Choices such as “always” or “never” that use definite words are less likely to be right than those that use conditional words such as “usually” or “probably.”

Look for grammatical hints

Between the question and the options, search for grammatical hints. Verbs in the same tense also have the question and the right answer and have nouns and verbs that agree.

Use guessing techniques

If there is no consequence for an incorrect response in an exam, there is no point in leaving the question. Use guessing techniques.

Keep track of your questions

If you think you’re right, then you may put a slash beside it. Marking the questions allows you to keep track of what must be answered.

Select all if more than one answer is correct

“All of the above” is generally a correct response.  If you are able to check that more than one of the other answers is possibly correct, select “all of the above.”

Example: The problem associated with the construction of the large dams are:

  • They displace a large number of peasants and tribes without proper rehabilitation.
  • Large dams consume large amounts of public money without generating proportionate benefits.
  • They contribute enormously to deforestation and the loss of biological diversity.
  • All the above

Carefully fill the answers with a pencil.

Be careful while filling in the correct options in the answer key. Use a pencil and don’t rush. Check your paper for the last time before you submit it.

Sometimes it is easy to start with the given options. You may put the values given in the choices of the question to reach out at the correct option.

Example: The equation 4(X+2) – 9.2 X+2) + 8 =0 has the solution

a. X=1

b. X=3

c. X=5

d. X=

  1. Last but not least, develop your own strategy for different types of questions.



Guessing strategies narrow down your choices and suggest the best possible prediction. The best strategy for test preparation is to study and be prepared for the test to avoid any wrong guessing6.

1. Frequency of Occurrence Strategy

Look for items that appear in more than one of the choices.

Example: Which one of the following countries are on the African continent?

a. Iraq, Iran, Nigeria

b. Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria

c. Ethiopia, Egypt, Turkey

d. Germany, Egypt, Syria

(Ethiopia, Nigeria appear twice, Egypt appear thrice

2. Root and Prefix Clues Strategy

If you know the meaning of the Latin or Greek word. You can figure out the meaning of the scientific word. Usually, a Latin or Greek root word is used to create a longer, more specific term. 

Example: Which of the following instruments used to measure temperature?

a. Barometer

b. Ammeter

c. Thermometer

d. Electrometer

(If you know that thermo- relates to temperature, you will choose option (c), even if you don’t have any idea about thermometer)

3. Highest and Lowest Numbers Strategy

It is human nature to add trap choices above and below the correct answer. When numerical options vary greatly, the best answer is in the middle range. Eliminate the highest and lowest numbers.

Example: The average rate of talking speed is _____________?

a. 1000 words per minute

b. 600 words per minute

c. 400 words per minute

d. 100 words per minute

(Eliminate the option a and d, choose between b and c)

4. Similar Choice Strategy

Look for similar keywords in answers and pay attention to the differences in those options. Teachers use similar choices to make questions difficult. These similar choices enable us to guess the correct one.

Example: Compared to the left hemisphere of the brain, the right hemisphere of the brain _______

a. Understands spoken language better

b. has better logical abilities

c. perceives words better

d. perceives emotions better.

(Focus on “c” and “d” because they look similar. So, cancel “a” and “b.” If you look carefully, “a” and “c” both deal with language. You already eliminate “a.” The right answer is “d.”)

5. Opposite Choice Strategy

Selecting one of the two opposite alternatives is another very common strategy that test writers use to create distracters. In this case, the best choice is between two opposite choices.

Example: The meaning of cognizant is:

a. ignorant

b. aware

c. insensitive

d. remorseful

(choose between 1 and 2, which are opposite responses)

6. The “Umbrella Option” Strategy

This strategy is found by Vann & Abraham (1990) when examining two Saudi EFL learners while doing a reading test. If multiple options appear to be correct, look for the umbrella option. The umbrella option is the option that covers other options.

Example: To assist a child in developing social skills, a teacher should:

a. talk to the child often

b. observe the child’s social behavior

c. engage the child in a game

d. provide a variety of social activities

(right answer because ’d’ includes all the other true responses)

7. Complex Question Strategy

This strategy seems difficult, but once you learn how to solve it, it is really easy. Read the following example and guess the correct answer. 

EXAMPLE: As a home health aid, you are serving a patient her meal. In which order should the following steps be accomplished? (1) provide eating utensils (2) wash your hands (3) dispose of leftovers (4) prepare food (5) serve food ________

a. 4,2,1,4,3

b. 2,1,5,3,4

c. 4,2,1,5,3

d. 2,4,1,5,3

8. Judgment Question Strategy

 In this type of question, choices are so confusing.  The best answer is common sense. Knowledgeable, capable, and experienced individuals agree on the same answer. Even other options are valid. Be careful not to let your or opinion or personal experience affects your judgment.

Example: The client tells his therapist that he cannot eat because someone is poisoning his food. This statement is an indication of ________

a. Paranoia

b.delusion of persecution

c. hallucination

d. illusion

(a. paranoia is described as extreme suspiciousness of others and their intentions;b. delusions of persecution feel that others intend to harm or persecution;c. hallucinations are false sensory perceptions associate with real external stimuli; d. illusions are misperceptions of real external stimuli)

9. Grammatically Correct Strategy

There may be grammatical errors in an incorrect answer. You can exclude grammatically meaningless choices, even if they contain correct details. If the question stem ends with the indefinite article “an,” then possibly a vowel begins the correct answer. 

Example: Test item 36. Grandma Moses, a popular painter, spent her life in a … … Little community.

a. Enormous

b. Unusual

c. Isolated

d. Tranquil

(“Examining the alternatives: The alternatives ‘A’, ‘b’ and ‘C’ are not suitable because they start with vowels, so the article ‘a’ occurs before a word starting with a consonant. The correct option is ‘d’ because it starts with a consonant”.)

10. Absolute Strategy

Choices using absolute terms such as “always, every, never, all, none, etc.” are less likely to be right than those using conditional words such as “usually” or “probably.” These words (always, every, never, all, none, etc.) are very broad and difficult to defend.

Example: The dropout rate in high schools is on the increase because: ________

a. all students are unmotivated

b. some students are disillusioned with school

c. students never take high school seriously

d. every high school student has emotional problems

(The options a, c and d contain term stats that are absolute than option b. Therefore, eliminate options a, c and d. Because they are less likely to be true.)

11. The Exception or Most Different Answer Strategy

Sometimes the options can be completely independent. I mean, one of the options is completely different from the others. In this case, the different option is probably the right one.

Example: Which of the following option would be an example of cognition?

a. driving a car

b. swimming

c. hiking

d. studying for an exam

(Right answer d, because it is the most different option)

12. Longer Response Strategy

If you are not sure which option is correct and one of the options is significantly longer, then chose the longest option. The longest option is usually correct because the instructor tends to load it with qualifying adjectives or phrases.

Example: The ideal gas law states the relationship among ___________?

a. Pressure, volume, temperature, the gas constant, and the number of moles.

b. Pressure, volume, and temperature only.

c. The gas constant and pressure only.

d. The gas constant and volume only. 

13. Key Word Strategy

Choices using absolute terms such as “always, every, never, all, none, etc.” are less likely to be right. Especially when we compared them to those using conditional words such as “usually” or “probably.” So, it is always better to hunt for verbal associations. A response that repeats the keywords or similar words in the root is correct.

Example: Which of the cell organelle contains chlorophyll?

a. Mitochondria

b. Ribosome

c. chloroplasts

d. cell membrane

(chloroplasts, chlorophyll, chloro- appears in both question and answer)



  1. 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.



Related Articles