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Should You Change Your Answers on Multiple Choice Tests?

by S. Merritt on September 15, 2009

You’ve likely heard the adage, “Don’t change your answer.  Your first guess on a multiple choice question is usually right.”

This advice is based on the notion that your brain knows the true answer before your consciousness, and once you start thinking about a problem, you may be led astray from the true answer. While this may be true, research also shows that if you have a good reason to change your answer, then change it.

A study published in The Teaching of Psychology (Ludy T. Benjamin, et. al., 1984) found that students more often change their answers from wrong to right, not the other way around. In fact, according to their analysis of many separate studies:

  • % of students changing from Wrong to Right — 57.8%
  • % of students changing from Right to Wrong — 20.2%
  • % of students changing from Wrong to Wrong — 22.8%

According to the data, you’re nearly three times more likely to switch from a wrong response to a correct one!

Your first guess is only as good as the logic and facts you have to back it up. If you can make a case for changing your answer, go for it – the odds are in your favor. If you’re changing your answer because you’re second guessing yourself, though, or are having trouble with multiple choice test anxiety, you’re best to just leave your answer as it is.

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