Tips for Multiple Choice Exams
By Natalie Umberger
Multiple choice questions usually include a phrase or stem
followed by three to five options:
• Read the directions carefully
- Know if each question has one or more correct option
- Know if you are penalized for guessing
- Know how much time is allowed (this governs your strategy)
• Preview the test
- Read through the test quickly and answer the easiest questions first
- Mark those you think you know in some way that is appropriate
• Read through the test a second time and answer more difficult questions
- You may pick up cues for answers from the first reading, or become more comfortable in the testing situation
• If time allows, review both questions and answers
- It is possible you mis-read questions the first time.
Improve your odds, think critically
• Cover the options, read the stem, and try to answer
- Select the option that most closely matches your answer
• Read the stem with each option
- Treat each option as a true-false question, and choose the "most true"
Strategies to answer difficult questions:
• Eliminate options you know to be incorrect
- If allowed, mark words or alternatives in questions that eliminate the option
• Give each option of a question the "true-false test:"
- This may reduce your selection to the best answer
• Question options that grammatically don't fit with the stem
• Question options that are totally unfamiliar to you
• Question options that contain negative or absolute words.
- Try substituting a qualified term for the absolute one, like frequently for always; or typical for every to see if you can eliminate it
• "All of the above:"
- If you know two of three options seem correct, "all of the above" is a strong possibility
• Number answers:
- Toss out the high and low and consider the middle range numbers
• "Look alike options"
- Probably one is correct; choose the best but eliminate choices that mean basically the same thing, and thus cancel each other out
• Double negatives:
- Create the equivalent positive statement and consider
• Echo options:
- If two options are opposite each other, chances are one of them is correct
• Favor options that contain qualifiers
- The result is longer, more inclusive items that better fill the role of the answer
• If two alternatives seem correct,
- Compare them for differences,
- Then refer to the stem to find your best answer
• Always guess when there is no penalty for guessing or you can eliminate options
• Don't guess if you are penalized for guessing and if you have no basis for your choice
• Use hints from questions you know to answer questions you do not.
• Change your first answers when you are sure of the correction, or other cues in the test cue you to change.
• Remember that you are looking for the best answer, not only a correct one, and not one which must be true all of the time, in all cases, and without exception.
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