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Tips for Writing Multiple Choice, Open-Ended and Essay Exams

Feb 06, 2017
Even if students know the subject matter they’re being tested on, they can sometimes be thrown off by the format of a test. Be sure that your child is ready for the kinds of questions that they will encounter on multiple choice, open-ended and essay format exams.

Multiple Choice

  • Answer the easy questions first. Save your time for the difficult questions.
  • Answer all questions. It’s better to guess than to leave a question blank.
  • Can’t figure out the answer? Try to eliminate at least one obviously wrong answer. 
  • Mark your answers clearly. If you change your answer, erase it completely – you wouldn’t want the teacher to mark it wrong because you had two answers!
  • For true or false questions: go with your instinct – it’s often right. And, look for trigger words like “always” and “never.” There are few things you can say "never" or "always" about. 
  • On reading tests, scan for key words that relate to the question, and always be on the lookout for the main idea and for answers to who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • On language arts tests, eliminate known misspellings. For fill-in sentences, read the entire sentence and look for context clues before trying each possible answer.
  • On math tests, use scrap paper and write down the key information you need to solve the problems, such as number sentences and equations. Check answers by reversing, i.e. adding to check subtraction.   
  • If you finish early, review your answers and be sure you didn’t miss any questions.

Open-ended Questions 

  • Do a quick scan of the test. How many questions are there? How many points is each question worth? Remember, a question that’s four points versus 10 will require less detail.
  • Do the easy questions first. Then, come back to the difficult ones. Sometimes, the questions you can’t answer immediately make sense when you look at them a second time.
  • Plan what you want to say. It can’t hurt to jot down a couple of quick notes so you know the direction of your answers.
  • Proofread. Did you answer the question? Check for spelling, punctuation and capitalization. 
  • Mark any questions that you need to come back to. If you want to add additional information to the answer, make a note, so you remember to review it.
  • On reading questions, if you’re asked to write an answer that draws a conclusion, use details from the passage to support your idea. 
  • For math questions, jot down what you know about the word problem and/or draw a picture to help solve it. Make sure that your answers make sense – if the question asks how many kilometres, make sure that your answer is in kilometres.

Essay Questions

  • Review the question. How many parts are there? Make sure you answer every aspect of the question.
  • Read the question twice - once to see what’s wanted and a second time to underline key words. 
  • If you have a choice of questions to answer, which ones are you most comfortable with? Do you have enough supporting material to answer the ones you want?
  • Prepare an outline. Organize your thoughts. Keep your facts straight, and be sure to include supporting details.
  • Be concise. Don't ramble.
  • Pace yourself. Leave enough time to answer all questions, and time for reviewing and editing. Remember you’ll likely be evaluated on spelling and grammar, too.
  • Provide supporting details for major topic areas – create introductory and concluding statements and restate your theme or thesis statement in your conclusion.
We provide personal tutoring programs for students of all ages, in reading, math, writing, study skills, and more. For more information on how our tutors can help your child succeed at school, please contact us at Langley Sylvan Learning.