How to Ramp Up the Best Exam-Taking Skills To Get Great Marks!

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For sure, you are going to access any and all available materials, resources and tools to help you get ready for the upcoming multiple-choice exam. But what if you could gain specific skills to easily passing not only the upcoming multiple-choice exam but all multiple-choice exams?   They are not ‘how to study’ skills.  They are specific exam-taking skills you can gain to correctly read, interpret, and answer multiple choice questions.

Here are specific ways you can ramp up these top five multiple-choice exam-taking skills:

Exam-Taking Skill 1: Testing Your Exam Readiness

There are two primary exam-readiness strategies you can use to ensure your exam success. First of all, take time to identify Potential Test Questions (PTQs). Ask yourself what the exam-creator would want to include on the exam. Flag, mark up or capture the key PTQs so you can focus your energy on what are the high priority content areas you need to study.

Secondly, take time to complete as many practice exams as you can. Exam-taking is a skill just like any other skill. So, the more you practice specific exam-taking skills the better your exam results.

Exam-Taking Skill 2: Interpreting the Questions

Learn how to correctly read and interpret the stems, i.e., the question part of multiple choice questions. The stems can be fairly straightforward for some questions but very complicated for others, like scenario-based questions. Gain insight into how to handle different types of questions, even the really tricky ones by looking at existing questions to see how they've been constructed.

Exam-Taking Skill 3: Selecting the Correct Answer

Increase your probability of selecting the correct answer. There is always one right answer. Exam creators who are trained well make sure all of the options for each question are the same length. However, a lot of exam creators are not trained well. In reality, the correct answers they write will typically be longer than the other options because a longer answer clarifies the correctness of the option. So, take advantage of this inexperienced exam-creator quirk. Again, look at practice exams to see this quirk in action.

Exam-Taking Skill 4: Eliminating Distractors

Learn how to identify and get rid of the options (distractors) that aren’t correct! There are different types of distractors that are designed to mess up your exam mark. Distractors are meant to be distracting! There are specific tricks and techniques you can use to quickly focus on the correct answer! Always eliminate the 'not correct' distractors first so you narrow down your choices and increase the odds of selecting the correct answer.

Exam-Taking Skill 5: Managing Your Time

Know ahead of time how many questions are on the exam. You have a limited amount of time to read and answer each one. Focus on answering the easier questions first so you leave more time for answering the more difficult questions. Make the most of the time available to get the best marks! Time yourself as you complete practice exams in the same way a professional runner or race car driver uses time as a performance benchmark. Achieving the best results in the time available is the goal.


You know you are going to study hard to pass the exam. Your educational or career success depends on it. Friends, family and colleagues are waiting to hear if you passed. Being more skilled at reading, interpreting and correctly answering multiple choice questions as an exam preparation strategy will significantly reduce your anxiety and support your exam success.


About the Author

Valerie Dixon, M.Ed., CTDP, President of Learnware Design Inc., is a leading expert in the field of workplace learning and performance. Valerie has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of performance needs analysis, learning strategy development and learning design for all types of media.  She is a recognized thought leader for the design and development of learning systems, programs and strategies that ensure accelerated competence.

She knows how to help others gain, retain, recall, and reuse new knowledge and skills, with less stress. She believes that learning is a skill just like any other skill. Learning competencies can be learned. Learning faster, smarter, and better than anyone else is a major competitive advantage, especially in today's complex, content-heavy, ever-changing, and high-tech environments.

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