Being successful in multiple-choice tests like the Military Flight Aptitude requires a combination of core knowledge on the subject, confidence, and mastery of the various tricks of the multiple-choice trade. Just knowing how to think when it comes to multiple-choice questions can vastly improve your test scores.

Now, that doesn't mean that you don’t have to know your material. You do! What it means is that by knowing your material and applying a few simple strategies, you’ll improve your chances at a higher score. Note: A lot of these tips apply to any test you take in any format. More for your money!

Reading (and understanding) the test directions

Most people are both apprehensive and excited when they get in front of the actual test. These emotions, and the chemical responses that result, often cause them to misread or misunderstand the test’s directions. For example, some vocabulary questions ask you to choose the one word in a group that doesn’t fit with the others. A common mistake many quick-acting test-takers make is to mark an answer choice with the nearly identical meaning.

To combat this effect, sit down, take a deep breath, and make sure that you clearly understand what the test is asking you to understand and to do. If you have a question about the directions, ask the proctor (although the proctors have specific guidelines about what information they can give you that may or may not allow them to answer your question).

A few more important points to note about the directions:

  • The time limit: You don’t want to be a constant clock-watcher, but you do want to stay on top of how much time you have so that you manage your time accordingly.

  • The number of questions: Divide the allotted time by the number of questions to give yourself a rough idea of how long you can devote to each question. Of course, this number is an average; some questions are more difficult than others and will take longer to solve.

    One trick for managing your time well is to do spot checks at each quarter of the test to determine how you’re tracking; if you’ve answered approximately the right number of questions for that time period, you’re on pace. If you haven’t, adjust your time spent on each question accordingly.

  • The extra materials allowed/required: Some tests let you use scratch paper, so make sure you have some handy if necessary. Tip: Use said scratch paper to write down hard-to-remember formulas at the beginning of the test. That way, they’re at your fingertips and less likely to slip through the cracks if you get jittery.

Start with the easier test questions

Because all questions in each test section count the same, you don’t want to spend so much time on one difficult question that you miss the opportunity to answer five other questions. (Time management strikes again!) When you encounter a difficult or time-consuming question, set that question aside and answer questions that are easier or that require less time to complete. You can then go back and tackle the hardest ones and allocate your time accordingly.

Maximize guesses with the process of elimination

Invariably, you’re going to come across a question that you just don’t know the answer to, regardless of how hard you’ve studied. What do you do in this situation: Throw a dart? Punt?

The answer is to first eliminate those answers you know for a fact can’t be correct. Decide how likely you think each remaining answer is to be correct, and then pick the one you feel most strongly about. If you’re left with two answers that you’re evenly split between, consider choosing the longest answer and/or eliminating an answer that includes the term always or never.

These last two criteria aren’t hard and fast rules; they’re just suggestions for helping you pull the trigger on a final educated guess. These simple techniques can reasonably increase your chances of guessing the right answer from 20 or 25 percent (if you guess without narrowing down the choices at all) to 60 percent (if you can eliminate one or two choices).

Even a 20-percent chance is better than no chance at all, so be sure to mark some answer for every question, even if you can’t make an educated guess. The flight aptitude tests don’t penalize you for guessing incorrectly, so filling in something always gives you a better chance at earning more points than leaving the question blank does.