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Tips to Get Consistently High Score on Multiple Choice Tests

... Smita Bharati

Most of the exams today are based on multiple choices. Exceling in a multiple choice test is as much a test of preparation & practice as it is of the right strategy, temperament and approach while taking the actual test. Many of us make lots of simple human error and regret that afterwards when we review our performance. Even in case of questions where one is not sure about the answer, it is possible to improve one’s chances of getting that right by following the right approach.  

If you want to be able to consistently score high on multiple choice type tests, then you need to follow certain well accepted principles of MCQ based Tests. Here are few tips which you should keep in mind while approaching the options:

Remember the Basics

  • Most importantly, READ the questions carefully and actively. Careless and passive reading results in needless - and potentially costly - mistakes. If you miss the word 'not' in the stem you could end up with a score of -25 for just one question!
  • You should always Pace yourself and don't spend too long on one question. Always have a plan for time and be alert to it.
  • If you don't know the answer and if your exam allows for that, move on and return to the question at the end.
  • Don’t rush to confirm an answer. If option A looks good to you it doesn’t mean that its necessarily the right answer. Read all the options, it could be that other option is even better and hence more correct than option A
  • Don't try to apply knowledge and concepts from outside the course. Answer the questions found on your lecture and class reading.
  • Don’t get into the thought that the question may be incorrect. Accept the question at its face value.

Eliminate Wrong choices

Here you try to eliminate those answer choices which are always suspicious and easily identifiable:

  • Answer options with absolute or universal qualifiers are usually wrong (all, every, never, in no case, in every case, etc.)
  • Beware of intermediate words and interpret them correctly. Here is how you should interpret the words: All, always, invariably, characteristically: 100%, Usual, mostly, very frequently: >75%, Often, common, frequently: 50-75%, Sometimes, occasionally: 25-50%, Rarely, very occasionally: <5%, None, never: 0%.
  • There are always one or two options that are totally bizarre and have nothing to do with the question. Options that seem impossible or completely unrelated to the question are usually wrong. Such options are generally factually correct and are put to trick the test takers. One should watch out for alternatives that are true, but have nothing to do with the question).
  • If you get two or more answer options that say the same thing, albeit, in different styles then both the options are wrong. As there can be two wrong answer choices but not two that are right.
  • In mathematical questions, If two answers seem extreme, they should be eliminated, and a guess made as to the remaining answers. As an example, if the answer is to be a number, and 3, 57, 89, 1103 are the choices given, you should eliminate the 3 and 1103, and take a guess at one of the remaining choices.
  • Answers containing numbers (ex: 25% of patients experience...) are most likely to either be correct, or completely wrong. Be wary of very precise figures - 19.3% of patients... they are unlikely to be correct.

Apply Intuition on the Remaining Choices:

Once you have eliminated the wrong choices, you would invariably be left with 2 or 3 answer choices to choose from. Here, you need to apply your knowledge and judgment to come up with the best alternative.  

  • When 3 or more alternatives deal in different ways with one concept, one of them is usually right. The instructor usually doesn't waste 3 alternatives on single incorrect concept. In this case, he or she most likely wants to have you discriminate knowledge.
  • Re-read the options and questions 2-3 times and test their connectivity to the problem statement. This exercise may move you towards the right answer.

Means of Last Resort

Well, if nothing is working out for you, and you are not able to eliminate any choices or apply any other logic, then is such a case:

  • Trust your instincts: your initial answer (or guess) is most likely to be right
  • Choose the alternative that makes the best sentence, when added to the open-ended question.
  • You may look for subject-verb agreement.
  • Choose the longer answer. The instructor may at times use more words to make the answer precise; thus the most correct.
  • And, finally choose the option C. Experience says that option C has more than 25% probability of being correct(though not by huge margin)


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