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Learning Skills

Taking Multiple Choice Strategies

Intelligent Guessing on Multiple-Choice Exams
  • Alternatives with absolute or universal qualifiers are usually wrong (all, every, never, in no case, in every case, etc.)
  • Alternatives that seem impossible or that seem completely unrelated to the question are usually wrong (watch out for alternatives that are true, but have nothing to do with the question).
  • If two or more alternatives say the same thing, each is probably wrong (you can have two that are wrong, but not two that are right on multiple-choice tests).
  • The answer to one question is sometimes given away in another question (tests contain a lot of information -- use that information).
  • 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 one single incorrect concept. In this case, he or she most likely wants to have you discriminate knowledge.
  • If two answers contain a similar sounding word, such as "subordination" and "subrogation," choose one of these.
  • If two answers are almost identical except for a few words, choose one of these.
  • 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.
  • If you are unable to eliminate any answer on a 4-answer question, choose the third. Experience has shown that it has a better than 25% chance of being the correct answer.
  • Don't try to apply definitions from outside the course. Answer the questions found on your lecture and class reading, not based on educational knowledge that you have.
  • Never argue with a question. Accept it at face value.

When all else fails:

  • choose the alternative that makes the best sentence, when added to the open-ended question.
  • look for subject-verb agreement.
  • know the instructor's quirks of language.
  • choose the longer answer. The instructor may have used more words to make the answer precise; thus the most correct.

None of these rules works all the time, so use them only if you have to.

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