In a perfect world, students would not be subjected to multiple choice exams as a measure of what they know – much less locked up quarterly in classrooms for entire days to take said exams. Don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in teaching to rigorous tests as part of smart backwards planning; however, your average state exam is far from inspirational, much less rigorous. But we do what we got to do . . . so bring on the tricks and gimmicks! Each test has its own bag of tricks but one trick I come back to year after year is what I call “The Sexy Six.”
- Read & Underline the question
- Don’t look at the answer yet (wrong answer choices poison your brain!)
- Guess what you think the answer will be – write it to the side
- Cross out wrong answer choices, maybe dots beside possible choices
- Circle your answer and write it to the side
- Star & Skip questions you can’t get down to 2 answer, come back to them when you’ve finished the rest
The Sexy Six are a tried and true strategy for any multiple choice exam. I teach them at the beginning of the year and have a big poster with them on it at the front of the classroom. I even give exams where each question is worth 5 points – 1 point for the right answer, 1 point for underlining, 1 point for writing a guess to the side, 1 point for crossed out answers and maybe dots, and 1 point for writing the answer choice to the side. I model The Sexy Six in think-alouds when we review multiple choice Do Nows and I show how students can use them to answer seemingly impossible questions. By spring, The Sexy Six are second nature and colleagues, I’m pretty sure test taking skills are at least 51% of the battle on these standardized-monstrosities.
Why “Sexy?” Ok, ok, I’ll admit it . . . it’s a cheap trick. Nature has wired adolescents to flag information related to and around sex as “highest priority.” As skillful teachers, we can use this to our advantage and attach horrifically dry and mundane tasks (like multiple choice exam strategies) to the forefront of their brains. Appeal to that reptillian stem! I’ll admit for middle school “Super” might be more appropriate.