Multiple choice | True/False | Short answer | Essays
Yes, we all know that this is one of the easiest forms of test. It's known to students by many names, including "multiple guess". But there is still some strategy involved. For example, some multiple-choice tests REMOVE points for wrong answers. So it's not always just a case of no revision and "take your best guess" on the day.
Here are some things to think about.
- Is there only one correct answer per question or do some questions allow two or more correct answers?
- Check whether you will be penalized for wrong answers.
- If there is no penalty for wrong answers, make sure you answer every question. If you have to guess, at least take an educated guess!
- Try to determine the correct answer first, before looking at the answers supplied. This acts as a double-check, and helps prevent the endless mind-changing and second-guessing that usually accompanies these tests!
- Read all the choices before choosing your final answer.
- On difficult questions, try to eliminate definitely wrong answers (cross them out on the question paper, if permitted). This may help you see the correct answer.
- If you know that at least 2 of the supplied answers are correct, "all of the above" may apply.
- Finally, check your paper. Did you answer everything you wanted to? Do the question and answer numbers match up? (You don't want to give the right answer to the wrong question!)
It's very easy to misread the question on these tests. Read it carefully before picking your answer, and don't hurry!
- Pay attention to qualifiers and superlatives such as always, never, must, every, best, worst.
- If any part of the question is false, then the entire statement is false.
- Just because part of a statement is true doesn't necessarily make the entire statement true.
- Will you get penalized for wrong answers? If not, you should answer every question even if you have to guess.
- There tend to be more True answers than False on these tests. (Don't rely on this though!)
- Don't waste time looking for patterns in the questions.
- Don't second-guess yourself: keep your first answer unless you are sure you're wrong.
These are usually testing knowledge rather than understanding (that's what essays are for!) Prepare for short-answer tests by using flashcards and memorizing specific facts and key details.
- Make sure you answer all parts of the question; some require more detail than others.
- If you don't know an answer immediately, leave it and go back afterwards. A later question may jog your memory.
- Pay attention to grammar - these aren't one-word answers unless you are specifically told this is acceptable and the wording implies a very short answer (e.g. the question asks "What year did the French Revolution begin?").
- Use your knowledge of the course - the instructor should have covered everything in class.
- Use the formal terms, or terms the instructor used. Don't use your own words if there's an "official" word for it.
- If you don't have time, or can't remember everything, write down something anyway as you might get partial marks.
- Use short, concise sentences. You need to condense the information into the space available.
- If you're not sure about a specific detail, offer a more generic answer rather than risk being wrong (e.g. "The Vietnam War began in the late 1950s" rather than take a chance on "The Vietnam War began in 1959").
The essay papers always seem harder. Whether it's because you have to put more thought into each answer and structure them correctly, you never write anything in longhand any more, or you think your spelling and grammar aren't up to scratch, these type of tests always cause more jitters.
If you prepare properly, the worst that will happen is hand cramp from trying to get all your thoughts down on paper within the alloted time.
- Read the question carefully. Make sure you know exactly what it's asking.
- Jot down a brief outline before you start writing. Structure is always important, and this stops you wandering off on a tangent.
- Make sure you answer the question. We can't emphasize this enough.
If it's asking you to "Evaluate the following argument" don't spend all your time saying whether you think the argument is right or wrong - you're not being asked for your opinion on the TOPIC, it's asking you how good the ARGUMENT is.
- Give a summary of your argument/reasoning in the first paragraph, then use the rest of the paper to bring out each salient point in detail.
- Focus on one main idea per paragraph.
- Try to refer back to the question every 2-3 paragraphs. This helps keep you on track.
- Provide specific evidence if possible. Always provide something to back up your arguments - preferably data or a quote from a recognized source. (What your best friend said last week probably won't count.)
- Develop the argument logically. State each point, provide supporting evidence, and write a suitable conclusion. The conclusion should have been proven throughout the paper and should contain the same central idea as your introduction.
- Try to use transitional phrases to make your paper flow more easily; it also stops you jumping around from point to point.
- If you aren't sure about a specific date or amount, generalize. So rather than writing "sometime around 1990" try "in the late 20th century" instead.
- Make sure you write legibly and use full, grammatical English sentences. Avoid abbreviations, slang and "txtspk" unless you are using them to make a specific point.
- Try to leave some time at the end to read through your essay. Make sure you've covered the key points; check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- If you don't have enough time to finish (or start) a question, write an outline of your argument and theories. You will still get some marks for this. Anything is better than nothing.
After each test, take a break. Don't start thinking about your test strategy immediately. Wait a day (if possible) or a couple of hours, then start thinking about your preparation and strategies. Look for your weaknesses, and try to plan how to strengthen them for next time.