You’re Getting Bad Advice: A Test Taking Strategy That is the Opposite of What You Have Been Taught

When I teach my “Science of Assessment” workshop I am addressing an audience of test creators, not test takers. Nevertheless, to help people write effective tests I often touch on test taking techniques that help test takers. For example: If you are ever answering a test question and have no idea what the correct answer is, but “All of the Above” is one of the choices, select it. It is often the correct answer.

So, here’s something you have probably been taught to do on a test THAT TURNS OUT TO BE WRONG. The conventional advice: When you answer a question, unless you are certain you were wrong, do not change your answer. Your first “instinct” was probably correct.

But, what does the research show?  The research shows just the opposite!

In 1984 Benjamin, Cavell, & Shallenberger reviewed 20 studies on answer changing and found the following data on changed answers:

  • Change wrong to right (57.8%)
  • Change right to wrong (20.2%)
  • Change wrong to wrong (22.0%)

So, if you change your answer, you are more than TWICE as likely to change from a wrong answer to a right answer than change from a right answer to a wrong answer. AND you are more than twice as likely to change from a wrong answer to a right answer than from a wrong answer to another wrong answer.

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