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Multiple choice exam tips
General Rule: Break each question into
the stem and the alternatives. Get an understanding of the stem before looking
at and choosing an alternative. Underline key terms and clue words in the
stem. When you run into vague terminology, define in your own words. Think
of the correct answer and then look for it among the alternatives.
1. Don't guess too soon! You must select not only a correct answer,
but the best answer. It is therefore important that you read all of the options
and not stop when you come upon one that seems likely.
2. You must select not only a technically correct answer, but the
most completely correct answer. Since "all of the above" and "none of the
above" are very inclusive statements, these options, when used, tend to be
correct more often than would be predicted by chance alone.
3. Be wary of options which include unqualified absolutes such as
"never," "always," "is," "are," "guarantees," "ensures." Such statements
are highly restrictive and very difficult to defend. They are rarely (though
they may sometimes be) correct options.
4. The less frequently stated converse of the above is that carefully
qualified, conservative, or "guarded" statements tend to be correct more
often than would be predicted by chance alone. Other things being equal,
favor options containing such qualifying phrases as "may sometimes be," or
"can occasionally result in."
5. Be wary of the extra-long or "jargony option." These are frequently
used as decoys.
6. Use your knowledge of common prefixes, suffixes, and word roots
to make intelligent guesses about terminology that you don't know. A knowledge
of the prefix "hyper," for instance, would clue you that hypertension refers
to high, not low, blood pressure.
7. Be alert to give-aways in grammatical construction. The correct
answer to an item stem which ends in "an" would obviously be an option starting
with a vowel. Watch also for agreement of subjects and verbs.
8. Utilize information and insights that you've acquired in working
through the entire test to go back and answer earlier items that you weren't
9. If you are not certain of an answer, guess... but do so methodically.
Eliminate some choices you know are incorrect, then relate each alternative
back to the stem of the question to see if it fits. Narrow down the choice
to one or two alternatives and then compare them and identify how they differ.
Finally, make an informed guess.
10. If you have absolutely no idea what the answer is, can't use any
of the above techniques, and there is no scoring penalty for guessing, choose
option B or C. Studies indicate that these are correct slightly
more often than would be predicted by chance alone.
11. When you get "all the above," "none of the above," or "a,b, not
c" type questions, treat each alternative as a true-false question and relate
it back to the question stem.
12. Think the answer is wrong? Maybe you should change it? Studies
indicate that when students change their answers they usually change them
to the wrong answer. Therefore, if you were fairly certain you were correct
the first time, leave the answer as it is.
13. Finally, the best way to ensure selection of the correct option
is to know the right answer. A word to the test-wise is sufficient.
Since December 1999 - last modified: October 09, 2008