Testing Tips

Multiple-Choice Tips

Pay close attention to directions. Listen carefully to any instructions given by the test administrator and carefully read all directions in the software before you begin to answer the questions. A tutorial is available in the test software, you'll have time to practice answering different question types before you take the actual test.

Pace yourself. Make sure that you're not working too slowly. You should have answered at least half the questions in a section when half the time for that section has passed. If you have not reached that point in the section, speed up your pace on the remaining questions. Click on the Time button to see how much time you have left in the exam.

Read the entire question including all the answer choices before answering a question. Don't think that because the first or second answer choice looks good to you, it isn't necessary to read the remaining options.

Read and consider every question, BUT, don't spend too much time on any one question. Questions that look complicated at first may not actually be so difficult once you have read them carefully. If you don't know the answer, after you've thought about it, go on to the next question. Mark that question using the Mark tool in the exam software and go back to it later. Use the Review tool to see a list of what questions you've marked for review, which ones you've not answered, and which questions you have not yet seen.

Make educated guesses. Be sure to answer every question in the exam — you will not have additional points deducted for questions answered incorrectly.

Request official scrap paper for use during the exam to write notes or do calculations. What you write on this scrap paper won't affect your score. Be sure to record all of your answers in the exam software.

Watch for key words like these in test questions:

all generally never perhaps
always however none rarely
but may not seldom
except must often sometimes
every necessary only usually

When a question or answer option contains words such as "always," "every," "only," "never," and "none," there can be no exceptions to the answer you choose. Use of words such as "often," "rarely," "sometimes," and "generally" indicates that there may be some exceptions to the answer.

Essay Tips

If you are taking the College Composition exam or your college requires the essay portion for the Literature exams, you should do some additional preparation for writing an essay. Taking an essay or a problem-solving test is different from taking a multiple-choice test, and you can benefit from the following additional strategies.

Please note, not all colleges require the essays. You should therefore check with the college or university to which you plan to send your scores to determine if an essay is required for credit.

Know the Essay Format. If you are taking an exam that requires an essay you will most likely have to type your essay response into the exam software.

  • Ask how much emphasis will be placed on your writing ability and you ability to organize your thoughts as opposed to your knowledge on the subject matter.
  • Find out how much weight will be given to your multiple choice score in comparison to your free-sresponse grade in determining whether you will get credit.

Know how the exam will be graded and by whom. The essay written as part of the College Composition exam is returned to CLEP and graded by English professors from a variety of colleges and universities across the United States.

If your school requires the essay portion of the American Literature, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature, College Composition Modular, and English Literature, then these essays are graded by the faculty of the college you designate as a score recipient. The College Board does not specify the guidelines and criteria for grading essays. Therefore, it may be helpful to talk with someone at your college to find out what criteria will be used to determine whether you will get credit.

This will give you an idea of where you should spend the greatest effort in studying for and taking the exam.

Determine in what order to answer the questions. Answer the questions that you find the easiest first so you can spend any extra time on the questions you find more difficult.

Estimate how much time you can give to each question. When you know which questions you'll answer and in what order, determine how much testing time remains and estimate how many minutes you'll spend each question. Unless suggested times are given for the questions or one question appears to require more or less time than the others, allot an equal amount of time to each question.

Watch for key words like these in test questions. Before answering a question, re-read it carefully to make sure you are interpreting it correctly. Pay careful attention to key words, such as those listed below that often appear in free-response questions. Be sure you know the exact meaning of these words before taking the exam.


If a question asks you to "outline," "define," or "summarize," do not write a detailed explanation; if a question asks you to "analyze," "explain," "illustrate," "interpret," or "show," you must do more than briefly describe the topic.

Organize your thoughts. Write a brief outline on the scrap paper provided by the test center before you write your essay response.

Note: All information listed above is from The College Board: http://www.collegeboard.com