Study Skills

The DETER Strategy for Taking Tests

To do well on a test, you must have good knowledge of the information that is being tested. But you must also have a strategy for taking the test that allows you to show what you know. The DETER strategy can help you do your best on any test. Each letter in DETER reminds you what to do.

D = Directions

  • Read the test directions very carefully.
  • Ask your teacher to explain anything about the test directions you do not understand
  • Only by following the directions can you achieve a good score on the test.
  • If you do not follow the directions, you will not be able to demonstrate what you know.

E = Examine

  • Examine the entire test to see how much you have to do.
  • Only by knowing the entire task can you breakit down into parts
    that become manageable for you.


T = Time

  • Once you have examined the entire test, decide how much time you will spend on each item.
  • If there are different points for items, plan to spend the most time on the itemsthat count for the most points.
  • Planning yourtime is especially important for essaytests where you must avoid spending so much time onone item that you have little time left for other test items.

E = Easiest

  • The second E in DETER reminds you to answer the items you find easiest first.
  • If you get stuck on a difficult item that comes up early in the test, you may not get to answer items that test things you know.

    R = Review

    • If you have planned your time correctly, you will have time to review your answers and make them as complete and accurate as possible.
    • Also make sure to review the test directions to be certain you have answered all items required.

    Using the DETER strategy will help you do better on tests and get better grades.

    Adapted from:

Guidelines When Taking Multiple-Choice Tests

Here are some guidelines that will help you correctly answer multiple-choice items.

  1. Circle or underline important words in the item. This will help you focus on the information most needed to identify the correct answer choice.
  2. Read all the answer choices before selecting one. It is just as likely for the last answer choice to be correct as the first.
  3. Cross out answer choices you are certain are not correct. This will help you narrow down the correct answer choice.
  4. Look for two answer choices that are opposites. One of these two answer choices is likely to be correct.
  5. Look for hints about the correct answer choice in other items on the test. The correct answer choice may be part of another item on the test.
  6. Look for answer choices that contain language used by your teacher or found in your textbooks. An answer choice that contains such language is usually correct.
  7. Do not change your initial answer unless you are sure another answer choice is correct. More often than not, your first choice is correct.
  8. Choose “all of the above” if you are certain all other answer choices in the item are correct. Do not choose “all of the above” if even just one of the other answer choices is not correct.
  9. Choose “none of the above” if you are certain all other answer choices in the item are incorrect. Do not choose “none of the above” if even just one of the other answer choices is correct.

Knowing how multiple-choice items are constructed and using these guidelines will help you improve your score on a multiple-choice test.