If you’re anything like us, multiple-choice questions (MCQs) can be the bane of your existence. We always second-guess the answers and end up getting them wrong only for our gut instinct to have been correct. It’s very annoying but we digress. Here are some tips you can use to improve your MCQ game.
#1. Read the question carefully.
This goes without saying and applies to literally every exam question in existence. Many examiners will try to trick you by playing around with the sentence structure or ask about something completely unexpected. Take this completely arbitrary question as an example, “Belle and Moana enjoy reading books. If Moana reads nine books and Belle reads five, what is the circumference of Jupiter?” See, you could have been distracted by the books Belle and Moana were reading and answered incorrectly. If you need to, underline what exactly the question is asking.
NB. Fine, that example may have been a little far-fetched but we think it makes the point well!
#2. Cover up the responses.
We can almost hear your thoughts going, “What do you mean cover up my responses? I need to pick an answer!” Here’s the thing: you’ll probably get swayed by the possible answers. You’ll second-guess what you’ve studied and feel like a complete imbecile. So, cover up the responses and think about what you know about the content. When you think you have an answer, uncover the possible choices.
#3. Justify the possible answers.
So, you’ve uncovered the answers and everything looks correct. Instead of tearing your hair off your head and bursting into tears in the exam hall (not optimum exam strategy, we afraid), try to piece together what you know about the subject material and find a way to justify the responses. If something doesn’t check out, well, you can rule that option out.
#4. Skip questions if you need to.
Don’t you just hate it when the first question on the exam is something incredibly difficult which you may or may not have revised thoroughly? There’s no point agonising over one question for thirty minutes. It’s okay to skip questions and complete an easier question with which you are far more familiar. This strategy will also boost your self-esteem. If you’ve answered four or five “easy” questions and return to that difficult one, you’ll feel much better about yourself and your abilities.
#5. Familiarise yourself with how the exam is being graded.
Is there any negative marking? Are some parts weighted more than others? If the former is the case, it might be best not to guess blindly at the answer and to actually leave questions blank if you’re really unsure. As for parts of the exam being weighted more, it’s probably better if you allocate more time to these questions than the others.
#6. Look for clues in the grammar.
Here’s a sneaky little tip for you: sometimes, the question has grammatical clues which you can use to pick the correct answer. Obviously, this tip isn’t foolproof but it can be handy. For example,
Which word best fits in this sentence: Snow White bit into an ________.
A) Toy car
(The answer is B, we wanted to mess with your stereotype of Snow White and apples.)
#7. Responses with absolute words tend to be incorrect.
If the responses use words like “always” and “never,” they TEND to be incorrect. So, you have to think really hard for a counter-example of whether something is always or never the case to eliminate that. Examiners enjoy tricking students up with these kinds of questions so you have been warned!
#8. Use the process of elimination.
This is where you put on your deerstalker and eliminate options that you are 100% sure aren’t correct. This will make it easier to think through the other probable answers.
#9. Keep an eye on the clock.
This relates to tip 4: don’t spend all of your time tackling a few questions. Before your exam, calculate approximately how much time you should be spending per question. Now, make little adjustments based on the difficulty of the question. By this, we mean for easy questions, give yourself a smaller amount of time and vice versa for harder questions. This will help you stay on track and complete the exam on time.
#10. Dismiss all the superstition you’ve heard about MCQs.
Aka answer C is always the correct option. Or too many of the same letter answers in a row means something is wrong. I mean, yeah, the latter is a bit fishy but sometimes the examiner may be trying to trick you. The point is don’t choose an answer just because of these superstitions. Rely on the other tips given above and make an “educated guess” as to what the correct answer is.
So, there you have it: ten tips to help you conquer those beastly MCQs! What MCQ exam strategy has worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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