The Best Way to Guess Correctly on a Multiple Choice Test

Despite how hard you studied and how prepared you feel, there are times during a test when you just have to make your way to know the answer – that is if you know that you have no vision what the answer is.

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Whatever the reason is, there’s only one thing left to do: GUESS, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS, or REVISE!

But will guesses, revisions and instincts give finest solutions?

Well, it has been a popular belief that first instincts are extraordinary, but psychological research has illustrated that they are frequently no better than an alteration or change.

However, there are valuable truth when anyone who has ever made a decision in real life will certainly retort, “I remember times when I made a correct choice, then changed my mind and was wrong.”

There is actually an explanation for this:

  • First, humans naturally have something called an endowment bias, where we feel strongly attached to things we already have and that’s our first instinct. We don’t want to give it up, and we feel especially bad when we give it up and it turns out later to be correct. We remember these instances vividly and thus they seem to be very common, even though all research shows that they are less common.
  • Second reason is sometimes first instincts actually are correct. The problem is figuring out when to trust yourself and when to change course.

Guessing, on the other hand, might seem like a random action, but there’s actually some logic and skill involved. There are a few different types of guessing:

  • Educated Guessing – One should choose the best possible answer based on all the information available.
  • Meta-Guessing – Don’t stare at the question, just the answers.
  • The Hail Mary – Indiscriminately choosing an answer.

Some experts made an experiment by asking the students to follow their confidence on each response to a real multiple choice psychology exam, marking it either a guess” or “known to indicate how sure they were about their original answer. They also marked whether or not they revised that original response. More often, the students’ revisions resulted in a correct answer and on questions that caused the most hesitation, sticking with an initial response was a bad notion and it took them wrong more than half the time.

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In another experiment, we looked at sticking with original answers. This time on students were able to identify the questions that they were most likely to get correct or incorrect. Using those ratings as a guide, we found that when they chose to stick with an original instinct, they were correct more often than not. Thus, both revisions and first instincts were correct most of the time.

Apparently, if there are contradictions, the best tool is “always trust your instincts” or “make a wild guess” or “always change your mind.” Another tool is allow yourself to choose when to revise and when to stick. Everyone feels their level of confidence when they make a decision, but the problem is that we quickly forget this information when we move on to the next decision. Because they rated their confidence for each question on paper, they could use those ratings instead of memories. Using this tool, they made more informed choices that helped them perform better.

Another helpful tip is to try to rely primarily on information the teacher has mentioned, assuming you have actually been attending class, and what’s in your textbook instead of relying on personal knowledge. It’s always 3 out of the 4 choices are topics or words you discussed in class and one is completely unfamiliar to you, rule that one out.

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When guessing, most answers will have two choices with words that are nearly identical in terms of spelling or may have a similar sound, so choose one of them because one of them is probably the right answer. Professors like to throw two similar options at you in an attempt to trip you up. If you’re guessing, this usually gives you a 50/50 shot.

Another thing is, you might find yourself in a position where there are two questions with opposing answers. In situations like this, it can be a good idea to answer the questions so that you’re guaranteed to get at least one of them right. Take a look at these:

Human use _____ to sleep and animal use _____ to sleep.

A. XXX and YYY
B. ZZZ and XXX
C. XXX and TTT
D. TTT and ZZZ

Now, if you answered “A” for the first question “B” for the second, you have a better chance of getting at least one of them right. It’s better to get at least one right than to get both wrong.

There may be instance where one word appears in 2 or 3 Options, at this point choose one:

The answer is probably “A,” “B,” or “C” because they all contain XXX. You could narrow it down further to “B” and “C” because they use ZZZ and TTT which also appear in “D.”  The only one that has YYY in it is “A,” so that was probably thrown in there just to trip you up.

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In some cases, teachers will include a keyword from the question inside the correct answer. It might be somewhat subtle, but it’s a great way to narrow down your options. It’s comparable to how you’re taught to repeat the question in your answer for short essay questions. For instance, if you had to answer the short essay question, teachers sometimes have a habit of using that same concept when making answers for tests.

The essential thing to bear in mind is that none of these methods or tips work 100% of the time. The point here is to reduce your choices and come up with the best possible guess or instincts. However, the best approach is to study and be prepared for the test in order to avoid guessing altogether.

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