Exam multi-choice question
Multiple choice questions consist of a question and between three and five possible answers.
The question part can be a question:
What symbol on the periodic table carries the atomic value 69?
Or, more commonly, it is the first half of a sentence (a stem):
The spread of diphtheria in the nineteenth century is ascribed to …
Regardless of the type of question, you are given a number of optional answers, and you have to select one answer from those supplied. You could answer by simply circling the correct answer on the answer sheet, which a tutor/lecturer will mark later, or by choosing an option on an InspiroScan card, which a computer will be able to read later.
The preparation for multi-choice questions is practically the same as for any other test: see phases of revision.
Strategies for answering questions
If you think critically when answering the questions, you stand a good chance of improving your odds of answering correctly.
Answering multi-choice questions can be very difficult, as often more than one answer seems to be correct. The underlying skill in answering these types of questions is to be able to choose the most correct answer.
There are two ways to approach the questions:
- Cover the answers and try and answer the question yourself. Once you have an answer, look at the options and choose the one which most closely matches your answer.
- If the answer complements the first half of the sentence (i.e. a stem question), then read the first half of the sentence with each answer. Is the resulting sentence true or false? Choose the answer which is the most true.
In some circumstances, some, or indeed all, of the answers appear to be correct. In these cases, do the following:
- Eliminate any answers which you know are definitely wrong. There is usually one answer which can be eliminated immediately for each question.
- Carefully examine answers which use negative (e.g. never) or absolute (e.g. every) words.
- If you know that two or three answers are correct, it is usually the “all of the above” answer which is correct.
- If some answers look alike, they can usually be deleted as they mean the same thing and cancel each other out.
- If two answers are diametrically opposite to each other, it is likely that one of them is the correct answer
- If two options seem correct, look at them carefully for subtle differences, and then compare them to the stem to see which fits best.
References and further reading
Landsberger, J. (2004). Multiple choice tests. Retrieved from http://www.studygs.net/tsttak3.htm