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Strategies for taking multiple choice exams

Budget your time

  • Estimate the time you have to answer each question: divide the total minutes you are allocated to take the exam by the number of questions you have to answer. Also allow yourself some time to record and check answers.
  • Use this estimate to avoid spending too much time on any one question.

Try to answer the questions in consecutive order

  • Stay within the time budget for each question.
  • Make yourself move on if you’re taking too long on a question; you might be overthinking it.
  • If you are unsure of the answer to a question, put a mark beside it to remind yourself to return and tackle it once you've answered all the questions you know.
  • Sometimes answering later questions can offer insights into those you missed the first time.

Read the question carefully

  • Read the entire question before looking at answer options by covering the answers with your hand.
  • Underline, highlight or circle key words as you read.
  • Be careful to note tricky wording, such as when the question involves an exception like, “Which of the following is not …”
  • Focus on determining exactly what the question is asking and ignore any extraneous information.
  • Try to rephrase the question in your own words.

Answer the question in your mind first, before looking at the answers

Select the best answer

  • Several answers might seem correct: you need to work out the best answer to the question.
  • Cross out any choices you know are incorrect.
  • Choose answers related to what was covered in class and examples given by your professor.
  • Even if your initial choice seems to be the correct answer, read through all the options carefully before you make your final choice.

After you have attempted all the questions, return to the questions you are unsure about

  • If you still do not know the answer for a question, make your best educated guess.
  • Keep in mind that your first guess is usually the most intuitive – go with it!
  • Answers with qualifying words such as "sometimes," "usually," are more often the correct choice than those with absolutes like "always" or "never."
  • Answer every question, provided there isn’t a penalty for incorrect answers.

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