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Studying and Taking Exams

Multiple Choice Exams

Misconceptions about multiple-choice exams:  

  • They’re easier. Not necessarily. Don’t rely on the fact that the answer is already on the page.  

  • Memorizing is enough. Avoid only drilling yourself; ensure you learn underlying principles.  

  • Your instinct is always right. Changing your answer is okay. Trust your thought process.  

Tips for multiple-choice exams:  

  • Read carefully!  

  • Read every single word in each question, even if this feels unnatural.  

  • Circle words that change the meaning of the question (all, some, only, unless, etc.)  

  • Slow down and ensure you answer the question that is being asked.  

  • Answer the easy questions first.  

  • Start with questions you know to boost your confidence for harder ones.  

  • This can spark memories that help you answer harder questions.  

  • Eliminate wrong answers using logic.  

  • Use process of elimination, which includes eliminating answers that are essentially the same as each other.  

  • As long as there is no penalty for incorrect answers, it’s better to guess than leave a question blank.  

  • Use the cover up method.  

  • Keep in mind that some options will be phrased specifically to distract you.  

  • Cover the choices and mentally respond as if to a short-answer question.  

  • Then, weigh the options against what you thought the answer was.  

Remember: multiple-choice exams are not inherently easier for every student. They provide specific challenges that should be met with study practices that encourage processing, not just memorization.  

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca.  

References:  

Palmer, D. (1999). Succeeding in tests and exams. Unpublished manuscript, Centre for Student Development, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.   

Palmer, D. (1999). Multiple choice tests. Unpublished manuscript, Centre for Student Development, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.  

Rutgers University (n.d.). Multiple-choice exams: Myths, misconceptions, and how to conquer them. Retrieved from http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~lrngctrs/pdf/multiplechoiceexams.pdf  

 

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