Expert offers tips on taking multiple-choice tests

What follows is a simple yet magical strategy that will improve any score on a test with multiple-choice questions.

Multiple choice is not multiple guess.

On the TV show “Millionaire,” contestants may take advantage of a 30-second, phone-a-friend lifeline by calling a (hopefully) knowledgeable friend to get the correct answer.

“It’s a powerful tool, yet I have never seen a contestant properly utilize it,” said Larry Shiller, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology math graduate.

The correct approach, Shiller says, is for the contestant to ask the question, but not to give the answers.

“Wouldn’t you have the most confidence if your friend gave the correct answer before hearing the possible answers?” Shiller asked.

“And wouldn’t your friend have more time to think of the right answer if he or she didn’t have to listen to three wrong answers? It’s the same with the SAT test, or any test with multiple choice,” he said.

“Whenever you have a multiple- choice question, don’t even look at the possible answers. Instead, just work through the given information as if the possible answers were not even there,” he advised.

“Then, when you are confident in your answer, find the correct choice.

“If your answer is not there, just work the question again, examining each step much more carefully to find your error(s),” Shiller suggested.

“If you’re not sure of the right answer, only then try to eliminate obviously wrong choices,” Shiller said.

“With this approach, you catch more errors, and improve your confidence that your answer is the correct one,” he added.

On the SAT test, you are penalized for the wrong answer, but not to the extent you are rewarded for the correct answer, he said.

Shiller, founder of ShillerMath, devotes his life to helping children learn and enjoy math. He may be reached at lshiller@shillermath.com.

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