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Friday, February 2, 2007

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," "insures." 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 sure of.

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 insure selection of the correct option is to know the right answer. A word to the test-wise is sufficient.
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