Multiple Choice Tests
Multiple choice question (MCQ) construction | Why are MCQ's so challenging? | Beware of these myths about MCQs | Study Strategies for Success | Strategies for Writing Multiple Choice Exams |
Multiple choice question (MCQ) construction:
- A tipical multiple choice question consists of two parts: a stem that identifies the problem or the question and a set of alternatives.
- Alternatives contain the key (correct or the "best" answer) and the distractors (possible but incorrect answers).
Why are MCQ's so challenging?
- Tend to test for detail
- You can justify your answer No part marks!
- You either know it, you don't, or you guessed well.
Beware of these myths about MCQs!
- Pick the longest answer.
- When in doubt, pick "c".
- Always go with your first answer.
Study Strategies for Success
Tip:While "gut instinct" is good, if you have solid evidence to change your answer, change it.
- Know the details. Aim for understanding, not memorizing.
- Practice, practice, practice. Spend the majority of your time answering questions similar to what you'll see on the test.
- Fading? Take a five minute break; then come back to your work.
- Make it meaningful and memorable. If you're struggling with a concept, find examples. Relate material to your own life.
- Be familiar with exam questions. Look at old exams and assignments.
Strategies for Writing Multiple Choice Exams
Download MCQ Tipsheet
- Watch your time. Don't spend too much time on one question.
- Underline qualifying words like "always," "never," etc. You'll pay closer attention to them.
- Tip: Read the stem thoroughly. Then think of the answer in your mind. Read all of the alternatives because the goal is to pick the best answer, not just one that is true.
- Watch for typos as clues to the best answer. If one of the alternatives has a typo, it is probably not the key.
- Eliminate wrong answers and see what is left over.
- Beware of true statements that don't address the stem. Make sure the true statement refers to the stem.
- If two items have similar wording, one of the parallel statements is probably correct. Often the choice comes down to two very similar answers. Pick the most complete response.
- In a question with an "all of the above" choice, if you see at least two true statements, then "all of the above" is the right answer. This is self-explanatory.
- Be systematic with confusing MCQ's with many alternatives, such as "all of the above," "A, B and D," etc. Evaluate each alternative carefully.
- Review your answers. Always leave time to check your work.