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MCQs aren't always a piece of cake
MCQs aren't always a piece of cake
Multi-choice tests can be deceptively tough.

Despite their seemingly simple format, they should definitely not be your teen’s cue to switch off and forget about studying!

Multi-choice tests and exams are actually far from one-dimensional.

At times multi-choice questions (MCQs) can be pretty straight forward, but it’s been our experience (particularly at tertiary level) that they can be absolutely horrible!

Examiners can make MCQs particularly tricky by either:

  1. making at least 2 (out of 4 or 5) options incredibly similar.
  2. giving multiple answers which are all correct, forcing you to choose the ‘best fit’ or the most correct.

Unlike normal tests, where you either know the answer or you don’t, MCQs force you to read through five possible answers – none of which may fit with the answer that initially comes to mind.

On top of this, the clock is normally against you. You’re probably given around 1 minute per question – so if you’re stuck on something you better think fast!

Now that we’ve put to rest the myth that multi-choice tests and exams are easy, we want to reveal to you a few pointers you can share with your teen. Pointers that we wished had been shared with us at high school.

1. If you’re stuck, move on.

Answer the easy ones first.

This is like going for a warm up jog. After a little while you’re ready to move into the next gear.

Applying this strategy in multi-choice tests (and in fact all types of tests and exams) can really save your bacon.

Once they’ve answered all that they can easily they should then go back to the harder ones.

2. Don’t read the answers first.

Some students like to adopt a strategy of reading the answer options first. In our opinion, this isn’t particularly efficient.

Most of us, if we read the answers first, would then read the question, only to have forgotten the answer choices.

It’s usually much more time-favorable to read the question once and then the answers will make sense.

3. Figure out how long each question should take beforehand.

Students who do well in exams know before the test approximately how long they have to answer each question.

So if you’ve got 60 questions to answer in one hour, stick to a schedule of about one minute per question.

Within this there will be questions that will take less than a minute and some that will take more.

I, personally, pick a few times to check how I’m going throughout the exam.

So, when your teen hits question 20, how are they doing for time? Do they need to speed up? Or should they reassure themselves that they’re going at a good pace?

If they ever find themselves sweating over a question for more than 2 minutes say, it’s probably best to move on and come back to it if you have time.

4. Cross out the wrong answers.

Whenever your teen is able to write on their test papers, it can be a really good idea for them to cross off the answers they know are wrong.

The process of elimination comes into play a lot in multi-choice tests, and it can help a lot if you clearly cross out the wrong answers so your brain is left to ponder only the remaining options.

5. If it helps, scribble stuff down before it goes away.

Quite often when you’re sitting a test or exam, something useful will pop into your head, only to leave as quickly as it came.

So when a juicy tid-bit of knowledge that will help them answer a later question, they should scribble it down asap before it disappears.


Hopefully by applying these techniques to their multi-choice tests and exams your teen won’t have to engage in the unpleasant post-match talk that many of their peers will – “oh crap, I thought that was going to easy…”

Image Credit: Casey Serin at Flickr


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High School Study Advice | The Study Gurus