By now, most of you have already taken a multiple-choice exam. If you haven’t yet, then you will soon. These exams are the preferred method of testing in many college classes, especially large survey courses. These exams are easy to grade, and professors can ask questions about a lot of material. Despite how often these exams are given, multiple-choice exams aren’t often well liked. Selecting one right answer from among many wrong ones can be pretty hard. There might be more than one right answer, “all of the above” answers and even the dreaded “none of the above.” In spite of this, you should understand that multiple-choice exams generally involve recognition (identifying an item you’ve already seen), which is often easier than recall (generating an item from memory).
The topic of multiple-choice exams is quite large, so I’m going to break it up into more than one post. In this one, I’ll talk about how to prepare for multiple-choice exams. There are three main points to make with regard to preparation:
1) Study, Study, Study! It’s critical to study hard, because multiple-choice exams are all about memorizing details—definitions, dates, formulas, and so on. In addition, do not cram for these exams because there is typically so much information you need to learn. Also, as I’ve said before, a great way to study details is to use flashcards because this study method is specifically designed to get you remembering a lot of specific information. Finally, keep in mind when you study that multiple-choice exams are typically going to test your ability to recognize information but may also test your ability to apply the information you learned to different situations.
2) Learn specifics about each multiple-choice exam you are taking. Talk to the Instructor and be sure you’re clear on how many questions are on the exam and how much time you have to take it. Then use this information to calculate how long you can spend on every question, while still leaving at least five minutes at the end to check your answers.
3) See if you can get old exams so you can review them. Even if your instructor doesn’t have old exams, maybe they tell you something about the questions and answers. Are the questions long or short? Does each answers always involve one specific choice that is present in the choice of answers, or are there going to be other choices, like “a and b” or “none of the above?” The more you know about the exam, the better prepared you will be.
Preparation is important, but of course taking the exam has its own issues. I will discuss tips to taking multiple-choice exams in another post.
Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.