You spend all year preparing for your AP US History exam. You do your in-class readings, take practice tests, and study whenever you have a spare moment.
But as you look at the test description, you realize you’ve mostly focused on the short answer and essay questions. And while they represent 60% of your grade, you don’t take the AP exam to get a 60%.
Multiple choice tests can prove tricky. And studies done on the ease of cheating multiple answer tests completely debunk theories about choosing C when you don’t know an answer and steering clear of absolutes.
Your best strategy for acing the multiple choice section involves knowing the material. But in this blog, we’ll also give you seven other
tactics to improve your performance.
1. Focus Your Study Efforts
You can’t memorize all possible information on the AP US History test. But you need a strong study strategy to help you retain as much information as possible. Take practice tests and study through tools that use previous test to inform their material.
Most of the multiple choice questions on the test focus on the time frame between the implementation of the Constitution and the end of World War II. In previous tests, only a few questions covered events after 1972. Focus your studying with this in mind.
2. Eliminate Incorrect Answers
When you come to a new question, eliminate incorrect answers first. Usually, you’ll see one obvious wrong answer and another fairly
obvious wrong answer. Your test administrator won’t allow or provide any scrap paper, but you can write in the exam booklet.
Clearly mark the wrong answers before you consider the other options.
3. Consider the Longest Answer Choice
One of the most definitive studies on multiple answer tests, performed by William Poundstone, showed that generally the longest answer is the right one. This usually happens because the right answer includes qualifying words that make it the best answer in the list.
This doesn’t prove as reliable when the options stay mostly the same length. But if you come to a question where one answer choice
is significantly longer than the others, it’s probably the right one.
5. Look for Grammatical Clues
Use common sense when deciding between two good answer choices. Look at the phrasing of the question for grammatical clues. Does it end with an article? If the article is “an,” you’re looking for an answer that starts with a vowel. If the article is “a,” the answer should start with a consonant. You may find other clues when you look at pluralization, key words, and negations.
6. Use Context to Find Answers
Poundstone’s study showed that answer letters rarely repeat themselves. So if question five’s answer is A. and question seven’s answer is D., you can eliminate those options for question six. Other context clues can also help. Reading the questions around a difficult question also gives you more information. Use mental context as well. If, for example, you don’t know the exact date of an event, think of it in chronological context with dates you do know. Then look at your answers again–you can cross off any options that don’t fall in the right range.
7. Don’t Leave Any Spaces Blank
In 2011, test producers removed the penalty for incorrect answers. So even if you can’t confidently answer a question through these tactics, you should still guess. You may not get the points for that question, but a blank answer has the same value as an incorrect one. Choosing and filling in an answer bubble increases your chances of getting the answer right.
Remember, all tests are easier when you know and fully understand the information in them. Don’t rely on tips 2 through 7-put most of your effort into studying. But if you encounter a question you find confusing or that you just can’t crack, these tactics increase your chances of marking the right answer.