The Sexy Six

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.”

  1. Read & Underline the question
  2. Don’t look at the answer yet (wrong answer choices poison your brain!)
  3. Guess what you think the answer will be – write it to the side
  4. Cross out wrong answer choices, maybe dots beside possible choices
  5. Circle your answer and write it to the side
  6. 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.


3 thoughts on “The Sexy Six

  1. Mary Schuh says:

    Hey Abby! You were my CS in 2008…and I can still say there are few people I have learned as much from as you! Love this strategy, but one question…what’s the rationale in writing the correct answer out to the side?

    Loving the blog, looking forward to reading it!

    • Thank you for your kind words Mary. I have students write the correct answer to the side because I read research a while ago (and I can’t find it now – sorry!) that showed students were more likely to accurately bubble in scantrons when they wrote the correct letter out to the side. I remember being amazing at how many mistakes students typically make just in filling out answer documents. I figure these are easy points to recover if we can just teach students to be really careful. I give them this rational when I teach the Sexy Six. Good luck!

  2. […] Use the Sexy Six: Looking for a quick, catchy and extrememly effective multiple choice test taking strategy to teach your kids? The Sexy Six work for me – check it out. […]

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