Mastering Multiple Choice

Multiple Choice Specific Suggestions

Gauge your own study needs related to multiple choice exams. Some people have a better capacity for short term retention of details on a broad range of topics, and this raises the common critique that tests only measure people’s ability to take tests. To some degree this is true, and so doing some research on multiple choice tests will help you to avoid some common trappings. Here is our selection of best advice, but because there is so much good info out there we’ve also created a link section at the bottom of this page.

Multiple Choice Studying

1. Don’t get bogged down by memorizing

Focus on ideas and concepts and how facts and details help you understand concepts. Writing material down and talking about it are two good techniques for mastering concepts. If you don’t have a study group, consider seeking out your local AIA or YAF chapter, or challenge yourself by explaining concepts to someone outside of your field who is willing to help you study.

2. Actively summarize

In writing down material and summarizing major concepts, your brain sorts out and ranks all that is relevant to specific topics. You will also create sheets that are great for turning into flash cards, or to be used as review of important points in the days leading up to the exam.

3. Don’t expect to know everything

A great aspect of the ARE is that you will likely need to learn new things when studying the material. However, some material might be too difficult to learn in the time you’ve set out in your Exam Schedule. Use the NCARB study guides as an overview to determine how much new material you will have to learn, the quantity of new material, and if it worth the amount of time you would need to invest to master it in relation to how much study time you have for the test section. Then adjust your schedule or cut some material from your study plan to accommodate. Inevitably you can expect to guess about on this information in the few questions this material appears on the exam. Just review these concepts, and then use your own reasoning and ability to analyze the question when taking the test.

4. Learn from experience

Take a half hour or so after the exam to jot your feelings about the exam in your notebook. Identify why you might have missed a question. Did you fail to read it correctly? Did you fail to prepare for it? Was the test at a more difficult level than you prepared for? Did you run out of time? Did you have any problems with anxiety before or during the test? When you get your results, and you did not do as well as you expected on a test, examine the way you prepared and adjust your style of learning and studying to equip yourself to do better on future tests.

5. Practice Tests are Key

There are ample sources out there, and these really are the reason to spend money on study materials. Check out our starter page ARE Study Materials for sale.

Multiple Choice Tests

1. Read every question and possible answers slowly and completely before beginning to think about what the correct answer is. It is easy to distract yourself from reading the question, and that makes it easy to miss things like “pick two” or other instructions.

2. Don’t be afraid to change an answer, but be certain if you do. The computer system allows you to flag questions and review them, and it is always a good idea to take the time and go over the entire test before you walk away from it.

3. If more than one answer seems correct, first identify the answers that are least likely to be true and try to get down to a 50/50 choice. If the test answer is only partly true or is true only under certain narrow conditions, then it’s probably not the right answer. If you have to make a significant assumption in order for the answer to be true, ask yourself whether this assumption is obvious enough that the test writers would expect everyone to make it. If you can’t decide, then go with your gut.

4. If you think an item is a trick question, it probably isn’t. Make sure you’re not reading too much into the question, and try to avoid imagining detailed scenarios in which the answer could be true.

Links to Sites with Useful Study Info for Multiple Choice Exams

Western Illinois University

University of Toronto Bios 150

Study Guides and Strategies – Multiple Choice Tests

Social Psychology Network

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