Strategies for Different Test Formats

Different testing formats call for different tactics. Here are our tips for effectively answering test questions based on type.


Matching usually consists of dates, people, places and vocabulary.

  • Read the directions carefully.
  • Read each column before you answer.
  • Determine whether there are equal numbers of items in each column.

Many times, instructors will include more items than necessary.

  • Match what you know first.
  • Cross off what you have already used, so that you no longer look toward it as an option.
  • Use the process of elimination for questions you’re not sure of.

  • Read each statement carefully to determine whether it is true or not.
  • Pay attention to words that could make a statement true, such as few, some, many or often.
  • Pay attention to words that could make a statement false, such as never, all, every, or only.
  • Pay attention to double negatives, such as not unlawful.
  • Remember that if any part of a statement is false, then the entire statement is false.
  • Answer every question, unless there is a penalty for guessing.
Short Answer & Fill-in-the-Blanks

  • Read each question carefully, and be sure that you know what is being asked.
  • Be brief in your response.  Give the same number of answers as there are blanks.
  • Don’t assume that the length of the blank indicates the length of the correct answer.
  • Pay close attention to the word immediately preceding the blank. For example, if it is an, then your response will begin with a vowel.
  • Look for key words in the sentence that may trigger your response.
  • Be sure to reread the sentence with your response to decide whether your answer fits the statement.
Multiple Choice

  • Read every question and try to answer it before you read the answers provided.
  • Cross-off answers that you know are incorrect.
  • Even if you know that A is the correct answer, be sure to read all the options before selecting your answer.
  • Look for similar answers; one of them is usually the correct response.
  • Answers that contain extreme modifiers, such as always, every, and never, are in most cases incorrect.
  • A joke is typically wrong.
  • The most comprehensive answer is often correct.
  • Don’t linger on any questions. To save time, keep moving and come back to the ones you couldn’t answer.
  • Circle questions you are unsure of, and come back to them after you have gone through the entire test. You may have recalled a piece of information or gotten a clue from another question.
  • If you must, make an educated guess, and answer all questions unless there is a penalty for guessing.

  • Before beginning to write, take a moment to jot down key facts you want to include on a piece of scratch paper.
  • Always begin a paragraph with a topic sentence. Your reader should have an idea of what information that paragraph will contain.
  • Similarly, end your paragraphs with a brief summary sentence of that paragraph’s point.
  • Try to be as concise and informative as possible. More is not always better. Your professor would rather see 1 page of intelligent and well-organized material than 5 pages of fluff.
  • In a timed setting, simply focus on conveying your argument in a clear manner. Don’t spend too much time trying to find the fanciest, most sophisticated words. Save that for take-home essays.
  • Always write a thesis statement for each answer.
  • Watch spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  • Use specific details, such as dates, places, people, where appropriate.
  • Answer all parts of the question.
  • When you conclude your answer, try to summarize your main points for clarity.
  • Write neatly.
  • Always proofread your answer.
  • Stick to the facts; try to avoid overly opinionated answers.