Beyond the Credential - Testing: Are you naughty or nice?


450482295_naughtyniceWe have all been there. You are face to face with a test question. You stare at the page or screen, your mind is racing, your eyes scanning the question and then the answer options and then the question again. Your brain is straining to recall the information. Time is ticking. Frustrated at your own inability to use intellect, you finally resort to one of the age-old test taking strategies. You try to eliminate obviously wrong answers and then guess. Or maybe you just pick C.

As long as tests have been around, test takers have used a variety of methodologies to pass. In keeping with the holiday season I am categorizing these methods as "naughty" and "nice". The naughty method encourages candidates to outsmart the test by using exam-wise strategies rather than learning the actual subject matter required to pass the test. Examples for multiple choice questions include process of elimination and when in doubt, choose C. The nice method encourages test takers to spend time preparing for the test by taking classes, reading study materials, and getting necessary hands-on experience. But even the nicest test candidates can panic and turn to naughty ways.

Think you've got what it takes to be a naughty test taker? Let's find out!
Answers are at the end but resist the urge to peek until you have answered all the questions.

Exam-Wise Quiz*

1. The answer to this one refers to an:
A. overture
B. mountain
C. building
D. misnomer

2. In which pifflerock did the zorkrans inkle?
A. Gi hien
B. Gis inkle
C. Gih frankel
D. Gishen fronks

3. The freezing point of water is:
A. 0 degrees Kelvin
B. 100 degrees centigrade
C. 0 degrees centigrade for pure water at sea level under normal conditions
D. 0 degrees Fahrenheit

4. What is the correct answer?
A. Boy
B. Girl
C. Son
D. Lad

5. The correct answer here is:
A. Maveric
B. Soveriegn
C. Glucose
D. Masculinne

6. In his famous study of infant baboons, Bourth showed that the effect of SAB was:
A. Every one of them displayed a submission posture.
B. All infants react with instant aggression.
C. Afterwards, they never showed affection for their mothers.
D. They tended to isolate themselves from the group.

7. When comparing LOK and ZIB, Hobson’s experiments found that:
A. LOK is easier
B. ZIB is easier
C. ZIB is more difficult
D. Both A and B

8. The Western state with the highest number of KUGS in 1951 was:
A. Oregon
B. New York
C. Denver
D. Pennsylvania

9. Zarfarle, en Ko day?
A. Henkledorf
B. Ricktoffen
C. Ifetain
D. Krator

Each question, with the exception of #9, gives away some hint or indicator of the correct answer. So these techniques only work on poorly written questions.

Professional certification programs (like SAS) that use exam development best practices, incorporate the art and science of writing questions, and perform psychometric analysis for exam performance won’t fall victim to naughty test takers. Bottom line? Good tests don’t have tricky questions and studying will make the difference between passing and failing. But even after all your exam preparation, if knowing a few exam-wise strategies puts your mind at ease then remember you can always just choose C.


1. A - Grammar: The stem accidentally gives a clue to the answer because only one answer is grammatically correct.
2. B - Repeat Words: The question accidentally gives a clue to the answer by repeating words from the stem in the answer.
3. C - Long Answer: The right answer sticks out because it is much longer and more detailed than the other answers.
4. B - Odd One Out: The correct answer is identified because it is not like the others.
5. C - Type-O’s: An error in one of the answers usually means it is not the correct answer.
6. D - All / Nothing: Alternatives with absolute or universal qualifiers are usually wrong (all, every, never, etc.).
7. B - Elimination: Logic. It can’t be D because A and B are opposites; A and C are the same answer; so it has to be B.
8. A - Elimination: Eliminate wrong answers first. Oregon is the only western state listed.
9. C - Choose C: If you have absolutely no idea, choose (C).

*Adapted from Exam-Wise Quiz by M.E. Raymond (2000).

Beyond the Credential, a new blog from The SAS Learning Post, goes beyond the impersonal and sometime sterile world of technical exams and shines the light on the more human side of testing.


About Author

Susan Farago

Senior Certification Developer

HUMAN KNOWLEDGE MEASURER & CERTIFICATION GURU Susan Farago has an ongoing fascination with human learning and an extensive background in all formats of technical training, instructional design, and certification/assessments. She holds a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Texas. She strives to inspire those around her through leading by example and she has been told she has a unique gift for “talking people into doing things with her”.


    • I have no idea where the "choose C" option came from but I remember it from elementary school. Likely an urban myth that caught on :-)

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