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If you asked a thousand students what style of test they would prefer to take, most would select a multiple choice test. The perception is that this particular test format is easier for the test taker, because the correct answer is most likely behind one of only four letters, making the chances of picking the right answer out of thin air a manageable 4 to 1. Even allowing for the occasional 'none of the above' or 'all of the above' answer, most students recognize that the odds of a successful guess are fairly high. Indeed, some test booklets and test coordinators will offer some test-taking advice that addresses the psychology behind a multiple choice test. This is not considered cheating, because the odds still favor the test creator. Here are some hints on how to improve your own chances on a multiple choice test by considering the difficulties of creating a challenging test.

1. Test creators make every effort to be random. When designating correct letters, most test creators are very concerned with creating patterns, so they will intentionally scatter the right answers. If you're noticing a pattern developing in your responses, such as an overabundance of the same letter as the answer, then you may want to recheck your work. Any pattern that falls outside the definition of 'desperately random' is probably not the work of the test creator. This can also help you decide between two potentially correct answers. If the last two or three answers have been "A" and your new choices are either "A" or "C", most likely the answer will be "C". A test creator will rarely keep the same letter as the answer more than three times in a row.

2.Be aware of bluff answers. On a typical multiple choice question, one answer is obviously wrong. Either it has nothing to do with the material in question or is deliberately meant to be distracting. The difficulty for a test creator is coming up with four choices that sound plausible. They may do well for a while, but eventually they will insert choices that are obviously space fillers. Eliminate these choices right away, especially if they show up later in the test, when the test creator may have run out of ideas for bluff answers.

3.If the four choices are all short and related to each other, select 'all of the above'. 'All of the above' is a traditional catch-all for short bits of information, and not used nearly as often as you might think. For example:

Question: Tom Cruise is a success in Hollywood because of his A)talent B)charm C)appearance D) all of the above.

The answer is most likely D, because all of the previous choices are shorter and related to each other. Here's a similar question, with a twist.

Question: Tom Cruise is a success in Hollywood because of his A)talent, charm and ability B)pact with the Devil C)connection and influence D)all of the above.

In this case, the answer is most likely A, because the choices are longer and barely related to each other. Use the 'all of the above' and 'none of the above' choices sparingly.

4. Test creators will rarely try to trick the tester on purpose. This fact will help you decide on a final answer, knowing that if it looks right it probably is. Math test creators will rarely if ever offer up a question that looks like this:

Question: The square root of 10 is A)3.326 B)3.426
C)3.316 D)none of the above

The tester is not likely to offer answers so close to each other. This is a more typical test question:

The square root of 9 is a)3 b)2.1 c)4.467 d)1.7

Of course, the answer is a)3, but even if you didn't know that answer exactly, it may come the closest to what you thought the answer must be.

5. Look for subtle differences when deciding between two viable answers. Test creators find that it's easier to create wrong answers that sound right than right answers that sound wrong. When deciding between two answers that sound vaguely correct, look harder for some subtle sign that one of them is a bluff. Are the decimals in the right place? Did the character named in the answer really do that in the book? Identifying 'trick' answers that sound right is the real key to improving your chances of doing well on a test.

Ultimately, you must know the material well enough to catch these trick answers, so the test creators win every time. You learned the material well enough to be tested, so both the tester and the one being tested win in the long run.