Strategies for Multiple Choice Exams

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Getting Ready Before the Exam

  • Review previous test questions while studying. Challenge yourself by working through difficult problems. If you take practice tests, review incorrect answers.
  • Don’t focus too much on memorizing facts. Instead, focus on underlying concepts. Test questions are usually worded confusingly
  • In addition to underlying concepts, learn strategies for effective test taking. Even if you understand the concepts, it’s easy to get stumped by tricky wording
  • Make educated guesses about potential test questions

At the Beginning

  • Carefully read all test questions and write notes within test margins
  • Briefly review each test section to determine how much time should be spent on each one
  • To save time, first answer test questions you know

Reading the Questions

  • Review each question stem slowly to determine what is being asked
  • Answer the question in your mind prior to looking at answer options
  • After reading the question stem, underline words that provide hints about the correct answer. Since students are usually stressed during tests, it’s helpful to underline text and make notes
    within test margins
  • Pay close attention and underline the following indicators: all, always, never, none, except, and only. These words typically signify a false choice
  • If you’re confused after reading a question, read it again
  • Don’t over analyze questions
  • If permitted, clarify confusing questions with instructors

Choosing the Best Answer

  • Analyze each choice before selecting an answer. Students often make the mistake of choosing one of the first couple of answers without looking at the other options
  • Before selecting an answer, eliminate choices that are obviously incorrect
  • Be careful when answering questions phrased with the following stem: all of the following statements are false except. Students who miss these types of questions often misread the question stem
  • When there is no difference between two choices, each choice is more than likely wrong. However, carefully look for a & d are false or true options
  • Pay close attention to similarly worded answer options since they often contain a few different words. In many cases, one of these choices is the correct answer
  • Pay close attention to grammatical irregularities in the question stem and answer choices. Compare the stem with answers to determine whether they match
  • Do not get sidetracked by the following answer choices: none of the above, both A & D, or all of the above. Eliminate blatantly incorrect choices to narrow options

Final Suggestions

  • Never leave questions you don’t know blank. First, eliminate incorrect choices, and if you are still not sure of the answer, make an educated guess
  • Even though some teachers trickily word questions, resist the urge to focus on this. Rather, thoroughly read questions since teachers test students’ critical reasoning skills by using tricky wording
  • Pay attention to questions that provide insights into other ones
  • Use remaining time after the test is finished to review for simple errors. If the essay contained essays, check for spelling and grammatical errors. However, if you constantly finish before fellow classmates, be sure that you’re thoroughly reading questions and not rushing through the test
  • Stick with your original answer unless you have a valid reason to do so. Relying on a gut feeling is a bad reason to switch an answer.

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