Taking a test composed of multiple choice questions may seem easy, but often these questions are tricky because of their wording, and you may get stuck on more than one answer choice. Studying for a multiple choice exam requires a special method of preparation and thinking. To overcome struggles with taking a multiple choice test, follow these strategies:
Strategy 1: Understand the Question
Multiple choice questions ask students to recognize ONE correct answer among a set of options or ‘answer choices.’ This means that you will need to rule out several wrong answer choices called ‘distractors.’ You can only arrive at the correct answer choice if you UNDERSTAND what the question is asking. Each part of a multiple choice question has a name:
STEM: Refers to the description you first read. This is often a short narrative that gives you background information.
Lead in: The actual question itself. Usually, it is one sentence.
Answer Choice: An answer hidden among other answers.
Carefully read the information given in the Stem, and do not be careless about understanding what the Lead-in is asking of you.
Multiple choice questions tend to focus on details, and you cannot remember many details effectively in short-term memory from cramming. Learn a little-detailed information each day and allow plenty of time for repeated reviews. This way, you will build a foundation of information for more reliable long-term memory recall.
Strategy 2: Pick Before Peeking
Do not look at the answer choices first! Sometimes test strategies will tell you to read the answer choices first, followed by the question so that you can have a better sense of where the question id directing you. This can be a huge mistake for two reasons: Firstly, you waste time reading the answer choices, because you will have to re-read them once more after reading the question Stem. Secondly, you may get confused right away if you do not understand something in the answer choices.
It’s a good idea to cover the answer options with a piece of paper and try to answer the question by yourself first. Next, read the stem and answer it with each answer choice. Which one seems true and likely? The ones that are not likely will read poorly together. Give each option the “true-false test”
Remember, answer options that are false facts by themselves will automatically be incorrect. Only after making sure that answers match the question asked can you proceed to weed out the incorrect answer, and arrive at the correct choice!
Strategy 3: Identify Key Words in the Question Stem, Lead-in, and Answer Choices
Circle or underline keywords to narrow down the question’s meaning. The correct answer will match every part of the stem, so pay special attention to negatives (‘non’, ‘not’,’neither’)’ superlatives (‘most’, ‘best’), and qualifiers (‘usually’, ‘often’, ‘generally’, ‘may’). Answer choices that contain absolutes (‘always’, ‘never’, ‘every’) are often wrong, as they need to be an indisputable fact. Be alert for grammatical inconsistencies between the stem and the answer choices. Those that don’t “fit together” will clearly be incorrect.
Strategy 4: Strategic Weeding
If two alternatives seem correct, compare them for differences, and offer to the stem to find your best answer. If the answer you thought would be true isn’t listed and the alternatives don’t jump out at you, start by eliminating the obviously wrong choices. Next, try to narrow your selection down to “partner choices,” meaning two answer choices that are either opposites or are nearly identical with the exception of a few words. One of these alternatives will often be the correct one.
Here is some example of how to use all of these Strategies to help answer a multiple choice question:
The post is originally written by Queen Elizabeth Academy – Tutoring Mississauga.