Using old multiple-choice tests for collaborative and engaging test review

Don’t throw out those old multiple-choice tests!

By Christina Schneider

 Planning and implementing a review for upcoming standardized and formative assessments does not have to be mundane and monotonous. One of the most effective and engaging (and common core aligned) multiple-choice-modifiedtest review strategies I’ve used in my classroom is one that works in every academic discipline and requires little to no preparation and planning. In fact, you probably already have all of the review materials you need stored away somewhere in your classroom in an old filing cabinet! All you will need is a class set of an old multiple-choice exam on the same topic that you no longer have a use for.

 Through the years, I’ve found that many students, especially struggling students and English learner students, work best in collaborative groups. And that is one of the reasons why this strategy is so effective. The students work together to find the right answer and support the answer with evidence found in whatever material you are covering. This strategy works equally well with fiction and non-fiction text.

 To begin the review session, assign your students into small groups. I prefer groups of 3-4 to make sure that every student is participating. Then, give each student a copy of the same multiple-choice test. Their task is to not only collaborate and work together to correctly answer all of the questions, but to also find and cite textual evidence that supports the answers they have chosen. As the groups work together to complete this task, they are effectively reviewing for an upcoming test, actively participating in test taking strategies, and authentically learning how to support their answers with valid and sufficient text-based evidence.

 Some of the best small group discussion I have ever heard in my classroom has come from this group activity.

“I think the answer to number 3 is B because in the text it says that…”

 “But, I think the answer to number 3 is D. Look right here. This sentence says…”

 As the students work together to identify the correct answer and provide supporting evidence, they have to analyze and evaluate which evidence is the best and which answer is the most correct.

 So next time you plan on having a review day in class for an upcoming assessment, go through some old filing cabinets, find an old multiple-choice exam, and have your students complete this review activity. You will be amazed at how engaged your students will be at finding and supporting their answers and at how well it helps them prepare for the test.


 Square image1Christina is a high school English and journalism teacher in Southern California.

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4 thoughts on “Using old multiple-choice tests for collaborative and engaging test review

  1. I think is a great idea. I have also, on occasion, even given a test this way. Sort of similar to open notes, but you’d be surprised of the learning that goes on DURING the test 🙂

  2. For pre-assessments, I like to add a 1-10 scale for how sure they are with an answer. 1 being a guess, 10 being a definite choice. It gives you some insight into their mind instead of a correct/incorrect answer.

  3. I completely agree, and have written about it on my blog. I don’t think MC should be the only means of evaluating students, but it is great to start discussion. It also helps students review basic facts.

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