Multiple-Choice Exam Strategies

Multiple-choice exams are probably the most straightforward of the different exam types, but nevertheless there are a number of different techniques and strategies that you can adopt to tilt the odds more in your direction.

Multiple-choice tips and techniques

  • After you have read the question, see if you can answer it in your head before looking at the answers. Try to anticipate what the answer will be, but don't be disillusioned if the answer you were expecting isn't in the list of answers. In that situation, make sure to read each answer carefully and select the best answer that matches your original thought.

  • Read the question and then answer it with each of the answers. Do it for each answer. See if the answer makes sense when tagged straight on to the end of the question, and look out for hint words.

  • Multiple choice questions are not only testing that you know the right answer, they also test that you know the wrong answers too. So it’s very important to read all of the options that are presented to you in a multiple choice question even if you think you've spotted the right answer in the first option or two.

  • Read the question very carefully, and watch out for ‘phrase traps’. These traps can be things like:
    - Negative phrases (e.g. Choose the option which DOESN’T describe….)

    - Subjective questions (e.g. Choose the option that BEST describes….)

    - Multiple answers (e.g. Choose MORE than one….)
    and other grammatical traps like double negatives etc.

  • Don’t ‘over think’. Sometimes you can tie yourself up in knots looking for answers to questions that weren’t even asked. If you find yourself thinking too much about a particular question, move on and come back to that question later.

  • While you're working through your questions, keep in mind that the answer to previous questions may reveal themselves through questions you answer later. So if you get stuck on a particular question (and assuming you are allowed to return to the question later), just flag it and move on. You may find a subsequent question jogs your memory or gives you a clue.

  • If you are completely unsure about which answer might be correct, start by eliminating the answers that are obviously wrong. Normally, in a scenario of 4 possible answers, two of the options will be clearly incorrect. That leaves just two answers that might be correct. At the very least, if you have to guess, you now have a 50/50 chance of success.

  • If you have to guess, don’t go for an option that uses terminology that you’ve never heard before or describes a concept you don't know. Just because it’s a new phrase or concept doesn’t mean that it’s the correct answer. Again, trust yourself and the effort you put into studying for that exam. If you suddenly come up against new terms, then it’s likely not the correct answer.

  • Use the ‘mark’ button if there is one. This allows you to flag a question for later review. Mark questions that you wish to re-visit, but don't go back and change an answer until you've come to the end of the exam. You don’t have to answer all the questions as they come up, and sometimes flagging a question that you’re unsure of might mean that the answer will come to you later as you answer other questions.

  • Pace yourself. Sometimes it may seem that you won’t have enough time to finish the exam, but you’d be surprised. In the end, it’s better to partially complete the questions and get them all right, than to finish the whole exam and get them all wrong because you rushed.

  • Don't fall into the habit of allocating a certain amount of time per question based on the total number of questions and the total time available. It's far better to divide the exam into 'quarters'. In other words, if you have two hours to do 100 questions, don't mentally figure that as 1.2 minutes per question. Instead, it's better to make sure you're roughly 25 questions in to the exam after half an hour, 50 questions after one hour and so on.

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