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Multiple Choice: Using the Process of Elimination

Multiple Choice: Using the Process of Elimination

Author: Sydney Bauer

This lesson explains how to use the process of elimination when answerin multiple choice reading comprehension questions.

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Multiple Choice Questions: Using Process of Elimination


When using process of elimination to answer multiple-choice questions, keep in mind there are not definite rules that can lead you to the right answer every time, only strategies that can help you think critically about the question and answer choices, eliminate some of those answer choices, and—when all else fails—help you make your best educated guess. Remember, you’ve already got the right answer in front of you, so you just need to get rid of all those wrong answers.


The first step in answering a multiple-choice question on a test is to make sure you understand what the question is asking. (Sometimes it helps to rephrase the question into a statement, or a simpler question.)


Once you’re sure you know what the question is asking, you’ll want to begin by eliminating any answer choices that you are sure are wrong, or couldn’t possibly be right. Even if doing so only eliminates one out of four or five answer choices, you’ve still improved your odds of choosing the correct answer choice.


Now re-read each of the remaining answer choices and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this answer choice respond to the question being asked?
    • If not, eliminate it! Even if it is a true statement, it isn’t providing a correct answer to the question at hand!
    • If it does, it might be the correct choice, so keep it as an option.
  • Do any of the answer choices use words like always, never, all, none, or absolutely?
    • Most answer choices that use these words are incorrect. The ideas within the answer choices are usually open to interpretation, and cannot be expressed in such absolute terms as always or never.
    • Look for options that use conditional words or statements such as most, usually, often, rarely, or some.
  • Does this answer choice use the same exact language as the author of the passage, but change the meaning of what is being said?
    • If so, it’s a misleading option that is trying to trick you into choosing the wrong answer. Eliminate it!
    • If not, it might be the correct choice, so keep it as an option.
  • Does this answer choice present an extreme view of the information from the passage (either extremely positive or extremely negative)?
    • If so, you’ll need to re-read it carefully to see if it’s actually answering the question, or if it’s just an extreme summary of the information.


One last word on process of elimination: Most students are able to eliminate answer choices until there are two remaining. At that point, it’s a good idea to re-read the question, and look carefully at the differences between the two answer choices before you make your best educated guess. 

Multiple Choice Questions: Using the Process of Elimination