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Mastering the art of math-based multiple choice tests requires ways of thinking that allow you to get the correct answer, even when you don’t know how to directly solve the question.  In some instances, the problems were actually designed to be attempted by elimination and not through directly solving them!  Here are some examples of questions you can ask yourself about the problem that will help reveal the correct answer by eliminating the incorrect ones:

  • Is the answer positive or negative?
    • Often times you can use properties you know to figure this out.  If the problem has to do with solving a logarithm, for example, then any answer choices that make the inside of the logarithm negative are automatically wrong.
  • Is the answer a whole number or a fraction?
    • Some questions have you answering “how many trips must so-and-so make”?  Something like, “John has a car that can hold 4 barrels in the back.  If he is to drive these barrels to his friend’s house, how many trips will it take if he has 30 barrels to deliver?  If you’re not careful, you’ll answer by calculating in this manner: (30 barrels)/(4 barrels/trip) = 7.5 trips.  This is the trap they were hoping you’d fall into.  Trips are whole things, and if he only made half of a trip he didn’t deliver half of the car’s contents.  You must make whole trips, thus we are forced to round up from 7.5 to 8.  This is because he couldn’t take all of the barrels in 7 trips (only 28 barrels are moved by the 7th trip) and now he must make an additional trip with only 2 barrels in the back.
  • Is the answer a multiple of a specific number?
    • This actually can be figured out around the last steps of solving problems.  Eliminate all answer choices that are not multiples of this number.
  • Is there an upper or lower limit on the answer?
    • This one helps a ton!  Sometimes you can say that based on the way the problem is set up the answer has to be below 10, or above 2.  This type of logic can eliminate quite a few answers!
  • Do the answer choices hint at something?
    • Sometimes the answers will contain a pi, or a square root.  If you solving a distance or length problem and are presented with answer choices that contain roots of 2 or 3, then it might be a good idea to consider looking for ways to cut up the problem into special right triangles (think 30-60-90 or 45-45-90).  These triangles have roots of 2 or 3 in them.  You can get TONS of information just reading the answer choices.

There are even more ways to think about breaking questions down on multiple choice tests, but these 5 strategies will get you started on your path to outsmarting multiple choice tests!