Study Skills Multiple Choice Tests & Exams Mount Allison University Challenges in Preparing for Multiple Choice Tests & Exams Anxiety Time-constraints Volume of material covered Misconceptions about the nature of multiple choice exams Often our assumptions about MC tests work against us Multiple Choice Facts There is usually enough time to complete all the items on the test Questions can be in-depth and require higher-order thinking and application of knowledge Typically professors allocate 45 seconds to 1 minutes per multiple choice item Do not assume all MC items will involve superficial knowledge It is important to know what the question is asking before answering Many students make errors because they mis-read the question! Multiple Choice Fictions Only knowledge of facts will be tested Professors are out to trick students It is rare for a professor to go out of his/her way to trick students, although some questions are more difficult than others Apparently “easy” items are “tricks” Questions can involve applying knowledge to new situations, theoretical explanations, or understanding the concepts behind phenomena More often than not, they are just easy items There will be an equal number of correct responses from each response alternative, or there will be a pattern of responses Professors really do not have the time to put “hidden codes” into their tests and exams! Studying for MC Tests In many ways, studying for a MC test is just like studying for any other test Start by reading/reviewing all the assigned chapters and your class notes Begin studying well in advance of the test Identify the professor’s goals…what has he/she told you is important? Study actively Take notes, summarize important points/theories, think critically about the material, apply you knowledge and test your self Studying with others can be very effective Helps you clarify weak topics Helps you identify and fill in any gaps in your study materials Having to explain material to others reinforces your knowledge Helps reduce stress and anxiety However, you must make sure you are actually studying and not just socializing! Thinking About the “Big Picture” Every piece of information gathered must be integrated into your existing knowledge Pay attention to titles, headings, & subheadings on the course outline, in lecture notes, and in the textbook These devices were put there to help you organize and understand the material Actively sort information as you are gathering it Ask yourself the following questions: What is this about and what is most important? What kind of information is this? Look for: Key terms and concepts Relationships Arguments and evidence Building a Strong Knowledge Base Attend all classes, and reread notes after each class, checking for completeness and comprehension Do assigned readings regularly, to avoid pretest reading backlog Read each lecture’s material during the week of the lecture, for maximum effect Make study notes based on your readings Predict what will be on the test Chapter summaries Review sections Margin prompts Text boxes Bold & italicized text Instructor or course emphasis Watch for: “rules”…true in all cases except… “firsts”…first proponent of a theory What information is interesting? Contrary to expectations? Practice, Practice, Practice Practice what you will have to do in the test Plan how you will remember Make sure you test yourself using materials supplied by your instructor, the textbook, or that you have generated yourself Mnemonics Diagrams or flash cards Personal examples Analogies to existing knowledge Try to learn definitions and concepts in “two directions” Be able to recall the definition based on the concept name, but also the concept name based on the definition In the Weeks Leading Up to the Test... Think about what works for you Study old exams or practice tests in the study guide Monitor your comprehension Use the study techniques that are effective for you Make sure you really understand Prepare and review sample items on your own and with your group Make plans for after the test In the Days Leading Up to the Test... Gather information Focus on the structure of the test Assess your knowledge base and fill in gaps Use information Predict likely test items Self-test: focus on retrieval During the Test... Stay focused and stay relaxed Read the instructions very carefully Becoming overly anxious will interfere with test performance Make sure you are taking the test properly Budget your time How many minutes per question or section? Come back to questions you can not figure out the answer to Allocate more time to sections worth more marks When Taking the Test… Read the question very carefully Make note of key words Many students end up answering a different question because they are rushed and mis-read the question Underline key words such as “all”, “none”, or “not” Read all the response alternatives Even if you think you know the answer, make sure there isn’t a “better” answer listed as a later alternative If you get confused by all the response options… Cover up the response alternatives and read the question stem. Try to predict what the answer is, then check and see if that is one of the response options. If you are not sure what the answer is, eliminate obviously wrong answers As a last resort…guess But only guess if there is no penalty for incorrect responses Make sure you have scheduled time to review your answers Make sure your answers still sound correct Make sure you answered all the questions Respond to any questions you skipped Do not be afraid to change your answer A study of 1,561 introductory psychology midterm exams found that when students changed their answers, they went from wrong to right 51% of the time and right to wrong only 25% of the time (Kruger, Wirtz, & Miller, 2005) After the Test... Plan a short break after the test Make plans for returning to your regular study schedule All work and no play... Do not forget to reward yourself for achieving your goals All too often there is a lull in academic activities immediately following a test Make sure you review your test once it has been marked Is there a type of question you consistently answer incorrectly? Should you be focusing on different information when studying? Can your professor make any suggestions to improve your study techniques?