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Multiple Choice Questions

Adina Glickman


The first step to improving your performance on multiple choice questions is to debrief your exams to get an idea of what might be going wrong. Most often it’s one of three things:

1.         You started reading the question and it looked familiar, so you went for the answer that seemed to fit. But it turns out you didn’t read the whole question thoroughly and it was asking something new.

2.         You read the question too quickly and missed a key qualifier like “always” or “never.”

3.         You got lost in all of the answer choices.

Here are some strategies for these challenges.

1.         Manage your adrenaline
Taking tests creates the classic fight or flight response, which releases adrenaline and cortisol into our systems. Fight or flight was not built for complex problem-solving, so remind your body that our life is not in danger, take some deep breath, and SLOW DOWN.

2.         Consider your odds
If you zoom through 100% of the test and only get 50% correct, your grade is 50%. If you slow down enough to do only 75% of the test but are correct on all of it, your grade is a 75%. Sometimes, it makes sense to plan on not doing a question and prorating that time to the rest of the questions.

3.         Turn multiple into Yes/No questions
Read each answer choice and determine if it is a true or false statement. All parts of a statement need to be true in order for the whole things to be true. Mark a “T” or “F” next to each answer, and then return to the question to see if it’s asking for a TRUE statement or a FALSE statement.

4.     Read the question and your answer as if it’s a statement and see if it makes sense
If you think about your answer as a logical response to a question or a logical completion of a statement, does it hold up when you say it like you’re telling someone a true thing?

The big misconception about multiple choice questions is that they are only testing your memory of what you learned. But in fact they are also testing two things, so consider how you respond to these challenges:

·      Your reading comprehension.

·      Your ability to think about a question, make sense of it, and then construct a logical answer. Constructing a logical answer is not the same as recall. If you can’t remember whether this fact or that fact is true, consider what makes sense based on your surrounding knowledge.