Answering Multiple Choice Questions
One can hardly escape multiple choice exams. A person who wants to make it big in life takes placement exams composed of about 85% multiple choice questions, to be admitted in prestigious schools. Board or Bar exams have multiple choice questions aimed at testing an examinee’s quick-thinking ability. Even those applying for a driver’s license would eventually have to take a multiple choice exam on traffic rules and traffic signs.
There are two very general rules to remember when taking multiple choice exams: 1) budget your time wisely and 2) relax.
Multiple choice exams can be classified into two kinds. The first kind of exam is composed of a lot of questions to be answered with too little time. More often than not, the questions falling under this type of exam are easy if you are not panicking. This type of exam measures one’s ability to think under time pressure which is why points are not deducted for incorrect answers.
The second type of exam is composed of few questions of varying difficulty, to be taken within an ample amount of time. This type of exam measures a person’s competence on a particular subject. To ensure that examinees do not depend on guesswork, this exam gives ample time for the examinee to review his or her answer but partial or a full point is deducted for every incorrect answer.
Too Many Questions, So Little Time
For exams involving a great number of questions expected to be answered in so short a time, the most important rule to remember, aside from the two general rules mentioned earlier, is to mark and skip hard questions. Remember that questions of this type can be answered without thinking too much so if you cannot remember the answer or compute for the solution within thirty seconds, you probably won’t be able to remember it at all.
Make sure that you have read all the choices before marking or writing down the answer because often times, distractors or foils are placed to confuse you or set you off.
Distractors are answers that attract attention. Distractors are very common in vocabulary tests. To attract the attention of the examinee, a distractor usually sounds similar to the word to be defined. Foils on the other hand are choices which contrast with all the other choices making it seem as though it is the correct answer.
Right Minus Wrong
Just like in the first type of exam, a good way of budgeting time for exams of the second type is to mark and skip hard questions. The difference however is that in the second type of question, it serves well to skip questions that take longer to answer because, with the amount of time given, you can surely come back for it again.
While you may not be able to answer every question correctly, make sure that you review your answers if there is enough time left and do not be wary of changing your answer if you feel you have answered incorrectly.
Read the directions carefully. Many people often make the mistake of skipping the directions. This error may prove fatal for tests which appear to be similar but are actually contrasting. A good example of this is a vocabulary test. Some tests ask for synonyms or definitions while others ask for antonyms. Remember that efficiency is better than expediency. More on Common Mistakes on an Exam.
Try to answer all questions. The only reason for you to skip questions that are foreign to you is if there is a corresponding deduction for every incorrect answer. For cases like this, the best thing to do is to take at least 30 seconds to answer each question, and skip questions that you cannot answer within that time.
Write what is on your mind. Upon receiving the exam questions, ask for a scratch paper or turn over your booklet and write helpful information that you can think of. For example you can make write a multiplication table when taking a math exam, or write down letters of the alphabet on top of numbers for exams on logic or patterns.
Eliminate the enemy. If you cannot remember the answer but you are familiar with the other choices, try eliminating choices that you know are incorrect at first glance. The idea is that you will be able to work your way to one choice.
Your first answer is generally correct. Change answers if you are absolutely sure that your first one is incorrect.
Pace yourself. Browse through the entire test and see how many minutes are allotted for every question. For exam types which give you longer time to answer, spend at least 1 minute for math, logic or abstract reasoning question and spend at least 30 seconds for vocabulary questions. More on Budgeting your Time.
Do not assume facts. The only facts that you have to take note of are the facts given in the question. If the question tells you that unicorns exist, do not argue with the question.
Do not ignore any fact. Remember that multiple choice questions are concise and so its writers try very hard to put all the necessary facts in it.
Do not ignore your answer. Many examinees ignore answers because they assume that every multiple choice question is a trick question. Remember that if you are ready, you should know the answer and if you know the answer, there should be nothing stopping you from answering correctly.
Every question is an isolated question. There are no patterns in multiple choice exams. Just because you have answered ‘C’ for ten consecutive times, it doesn’t mean the next answer will be ‘C.’ Many myths have been told that the answer that appears more commonly is the best guess. There is no truth in that belief. Many multiple choice exams are now generated and corrected by computers so it is less likely that there are patterns.
Multiple choice exams are not intimidating if you are prepared to face them. If you are prepared, multiple choice exams are not as formidable as they may seem.