Reading

Multiple-Choice Strategies for Standardized Tests

Posted on March 28, 2012
Multiple-Choice Strategies for Standardized Tests

Multiple-Choice Strategies for Standardized Tests

Posted on March 28, 2012

Multiple-Choice Strategies for Standardized Tests

The multiple-choice portion of state and national assessments requires different thinking than the applied skills part. Students need specific test-taking tips for attacking multiple-choice questions on literacy skills.

  • Any question worded to include BEST or MOST LIKELY alerts the student that this is an inferential question. This means the answer is not found in the reading literally; there is nothing to go back into the original text and find. That's a waste of valuable time. These questions are inferential; they are about the reading. Students need to stop and think about the implied ideas. They need to ask themselves, Which of the four answers is the most right or the best of my choices?
  • Every passage students read for a state or national assessment will include a question about the main idea. Being able to confidently select the main idea of a passage is critical.
    • First, define main idea as more than the 1-3 word topic. An assessment will never ask Which word BEST explains the topic of this selection? A) Tigers, B) Winter, C) Basketball, or D) Driving.
    • Rather, main idea is usually packaged as a 4-8 word statement that explains a particular angle of the topic or a specific facet of the subject. Which sentence BEST describes the main idea of this passage.
    • You can have several passages all on the same topic, but each passage has its own unique angle or main idea. For example, the sports section of the newspaper this month has numerous articles all on March Madness. They are all on the same topic. However, each article addresses a different facet, a different game, a different perspective, a different angle.
    • Each of those March Madness newspaper articles has a headline that tells the reader the main idea of the article. Study headlines for the 4-8 word main-idea sentence. Get students to see beyond just the topic and think more specifically about the point of the passage.
  • Often there are multiple-choice questions about figurative language. Students need to know not only the type of figurative language in the excerpt, but also interpret what the author is implying. A fun way to review is to utilize popular (and school-appropriate) song lyrics. You could photocopy the CD jacket of lyrics, play the song, and have kids work to find multiple examples of similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration, irony, etc. While sharing out examples they found, discuss the songwriter's intended message for each.

Although the strategies above are geared to the kinds of questions students will face on a language arts reading assessment, here are two tips to review that are applicable to any standardized test on any subject.

  • Review the question-answer process that parallels the 50/50 lifeline from the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Read more about this strategy in the Idea Library.
  • There are often questions about the meaning of a word in the context. Teach students to find the original sentence in the text and then to read a couple of sentences before and after it. Often there are nearby text clues that hint at the word's meaning. For more specifics review the Idea Library article.