Expert Tips on Multiple Choice Questions

Good rule of thumb: It is a good idea to break every question down into two elements – the stem and alternatives. Understand the stem and then consider the alternatives. From the stem, select key phrases, terms and any words that hold a clue. Where terminology is vague, re-define the term in words of your own choosing. Consider what the right answer might be and see if it is listed in the alternatives.

  1. Try to avoid guessing too early on! It is important you select the best available answer as well as the correct one. Therefore, it is vital to look at all the options and not just choose the first one that seems correct.
  2. It is really important you choose the answer that is entirely correct and not just correct in the technical sense. Many multiple-choice questions include such options as “all” or “none” of the suggested answers. These statements are very broad and are often right.
  3. Be extra vigilant about suggested answers that include absolute words e.g. “always,” “are,” “ensures,” “guarantees,” “is” and “never.” Statements like these are very restrictive and hard to properly defend. They are seldom the right options although they sometimes can be.
  4. The opposite of the above point is that many very guarded or carefully stated options have a tendency to be right more frequently than mere chance could predict. The best advice is to favor any options that contain phrases such as “may occasionally be,” “can sometimes result in,” or similar qualifying statements.
  5. Beware of any options that are very long or contain “jargon.” These are often used for decoy purposes.
  6. If there is any terminology you do not fully understand, make an intelligent guess based on your knowledge of frequently-used suffixes, prefixes, and word roots. For example, you would probably guess the word “hypertension” is a reference to high blood pressure rather than low blood pressure because it is prefixed by the word “hyper.”
  7.  Watch out for clues in the way a question is grammatically constructed. Clearly, where the stem ends with the word “an,” the right option would very likely begin with a vowel. Look out too for cases of subject/verb agreement.
  8. Use any insights and/or information acquired over the course of the whole test to revisit questions you were not sure of earlier on.
  9. Take a guess if you are not sure about an answer, but be methodical. Look at the options and eliminate any you know to be incorrect. Then consider the alternatives against the stem to work out what fits. Narrow the choices down to an option or two. Compare these and work out what seems most feasible before making an intelligent guess.
  10. Very likely, there will be situations where you really do not know the answer and cannot apply any of the techniques described above. In these cases, and provided you are not going to be penalized for making a guess, choose from the B,C or subsequent options. It has been shown in studies that the likelihood of one of these being correct are slightly higher than mere chance would predict.
  11. Where questions are of the “all or none of the above” variety or require an “a or b, but not c” answer, consider the alternatives in each case as a true or false style question. Look at them against the stem of the question and choose accordingly.
  12. Consider the scenario where you have given an answer, then think it is wrong, and want to change it. It has been shown in studies that when answers are changed, they are usually changed to the wrong option. Hence, you should leave your answer unchanged if you felt reasonably sure about it in the first place.

Last but not least, the surest way of selecting the correct answer is to know what it is. Those who are seasoned test-takers will know what this means!