Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) Exams – How to Crack Them

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) exams with negative marking are the current trends for exams internationally. The exam pattern is feared by some students because the choices look confusing, tricky and risky, especially when exam preparation is not 100%. Here we would discuss few ways to improve scores to solve/crack the multiple choice questions (MCQ) based exam.

Having myself passed three of the 20 hottest certification exams (Sun Java, Value Engg, PMP) based on MCQ format, I have concluded that MCQ tests are like Driving License Test. These driving tests are not about whether you can start engine, put your foot on gas pedal and go. On the other hand, they are about general understanding of vehicle itself (i.e. exam pattern), navigation skills (when to speed up, when to slow down, have control at all times, do defensive driving), know all traffic symbols & rules- high speed lane is only meant to overtake (i.e. hurry up with questions only when essential), give way to vehicles when needed to be safe (skip tough questions to save time), look out on road for potholes/obstacles/wetness and slow down (i.e. watch out for tricky questions and don’t fall in traps/distracter), follow drive-test examiner’s instruction completely (follow the question’s instructions as to what is expected from us) and so on. Following are the general tips on how to crack multiple choice question (MCQ) exam:

Before the Exam (during preparation)

1) Thoroughly understand the exam pattern. Know all the sections of the exam and go prepared after evaluating negative marking scheme of exam.

2) Understand yourself i.e. know your strength and weaknesses. Strength lies where you had been able to answer the questions under 30 seconds just after sleep during preparation and weaknesses where you had the history of marking wrong choices even after contemplating on questions for 2-3 minutes.

3) Perfect the art of speed, correctness and gut feeling. Know a little bit of probability theory to decide if the odds of success in answering a question are rewarding or foolhardy. There is only a thin line that separates smartness and foolhardy.

4) Old is gold. Try to solve previous years question paper to understand the exam format and to build speed, correctness and understand if your gut feeling is normally right or wrong. One can download the previous year’s questions papers from multitude of sources online.

5) Keep in mind that MCQ format also tests the candidates differentiating skills. If one can develop the skills of eliminating one or two choices from 4 choices, one is on the way to success. Even if you feel the correct choice is not one of the choices, select the best choice.

6) Few calculation based questions may have shortcuts methods to solve them. Similarly, many of the theory concepts can be very well learnt using memorization tools. Everyone can recall how easy it is to learn the sequence of rainbow colors using VIBGYOR (Violet Indigo Blue Green Yellow Orange Red) acronym. I had devised a mnemonics list of about 50 such acronym words to remember during my PMP exam with great success (e.g. APES stands for Alternatives Identification, Product Analysis, Expert Judgment and Stakeholder Analysis and CEO stands for Collective bargaining agreements, Economic condition and Organization Structure). Speaking about our brain, the strength of the signal they convey is determined by use. The more a particular synapse is used, the stronger the signal it conveys. Therefore regular practice is a must for this method. tutoring

7) Develop some time management skills during schooling as it will pay-off handsomely during exams. Like experienced cricketers keep their nerve for long chase, learn how to pace your innings correctly. Don’t keep everything till the end, finish the exam 8-10 minutes before the schedule to perform some sanity checks. Few of the MCQ questions in exams are intentionally made long-worded to test if the candidates can handle time pressure. My trick for such questions used to be to read the last sentence of the question first to understand what is actually being asked.

8) Learn few deep breathing exercises and do it every hour for 1-2 minutes during exam. It will refresh your mind by supplying excess oxygen. Moreover, yogic breathing exercises are proven to bring positive attitude and one can keep the nerves well during exam. For me even praying worked wonders during exams.

During the Exam
1) Carefully read the question. After reading the question, briefly close the eyes and think what was written on this topic in your notes and textbook. Many a times, reading the choices first can mislead you to incorrect answers. The questions are framed to separate wheat from husk (i.e. such that students with inadequate preparation would be lured to select wrong answers-also known as distracters. Distracters are nicely worded ‘correct looking’ choices which are never part of exam curriculum.

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