Multiple-Choice Tests

Multiple-choice tests are scored without instructor judgement. Be aware that multiple-choice tests do not just test basic knowledge, but may also test your understanding and ability to apply that knowledge.

Preparing for Multiple-Choice Tests

  • Make sure you are studying the correct material: check your course outline or talk to your instructor.
  • Use active study methods to learn and review information.
  • Study often and in short chunks rather than in long sessions.
  • Test yourself while you study.

Find practice questions

  • Course textbooks often have practice multiple-choice questions: these are a great place to start when preparing.
  • Some textbooks have websites; check these out for possible review questions.
  • Some instructors post practice questions or reviews on Moodle.
  • Different textbooks on the same subject can also be good sources of practice questions. Check the library for these.

Create your own practice questions

Creating test questions helps you to see the information from your lecture and text notes translated into the multiple-choice format before the test. Try these three strategies when creating questions:

  • turn the headings and subheadings in the textbook into questions;
  • turn key concepts from lecture notes into questions;
  • prepare questions on a section of a chapter, and then trade questions with a study partner.

Another strategy that could be helpful in studying for a multiple-choice test is to create your own flash cards. See this explaining flash cards and their advantages.

Using Flash Cards

Participating in a study group is a great way to collaborate with your classmates in order to prepare for multiple-choice tests. You can create questions for each other, share flash cards, or quiz each other.

Writing Multiple-Choice Tests

  • Do not take time to read all the questions before beginning. You will waste less time if you just answer questions as you come to them.
  • Read the question carefully:
    • note key words;
    • try to restate the question in your own words;
    • make note of terms that the instructor has bolded or underlined.
  • Before looking at the choices, think of the correct answer.
  • Read all the alternatives carefully, even if the first one seems right, and highlight key words. Choose the best answer from the choices available — more than one may seem right.
  • If you still don’t know the answer, guess if you are not penalized for doing so.

How do I budget my time in a multiple-choice test?

  • Calculate the amount of time you can spend on each section or question according to the number of marks it’s worth.
  • Leave time at the end of the test to return to unfinished questions.
  • Work quickly and skip questions that you can’t answer right away.

How do I deal with difficult questions?

  • Pay close attention to negatives and absolute terms like “always” or “never.”
  • Watch out for distractors — extraneous bits of information that might distract you from the real purpose of the question. Cross out the distractors and underline the key points to help you maintain focus.
  • Treat each alternative as a true-false statement, and search for the one true statement amid the alternatives.
  • If you’re debating between two similar answers, try identifying which is the worse answer, rather than which is the better one.
  • Keep in mind that these techniques will not work for all questions, and that they can be time-consuming. Try them out in a practice test first.


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