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How to succeed at MCQs

MCQ technique

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Good preparation is only half the battle in an MCQ exam, and technique is equally important. MCQs can be deliberately tricky, with the aim of sorting the 'wheat from the chaff'. You may get the feeling that the examiners are trying to trip you up - this is because they are, and you need to be wise to their strategies.

To this end, we've complied another list of tips, this time to help you perfect your MCQ answering technique:

Recommended Further Reading


All, always, invariably, characteristically: 100%

Usual, mostly, very frequently: >75%

Often, common, frequently: 50-75%

Sometimes, occasionally: 25-50%

Rarely, very occasionally: <5%

None, never: 0%


Activity: How to answer MCQs - allow at least 1 hour

In this activity, you discover how to develop your MCQ answering technique.

1. Find a set of MCQs to answer; these could be past exam papers or questions from a revision book.

2. Find 3 pens - each with different coloured ink (coloured pencils would be fine too).

3. Create exam conditions: find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and set yourself a time limit - 40-60 minutes per 100 questions is realistic.

4. When you're ready to begin, choose a pen and make a 'first pass' through your questions, answering the questions you are confident about.

5. After completing the first pass, choose a different pen, and make a second pass through the questions you have not yet answered. This time attempt to deduce the answers through a process of elimination or educated guessing.

6. Leave out all the questions that you still don't understand, or if you really have no idea what the answer could be.

7. Take your last pen, and make a third and final pass through the questions. Choose a method you'll use to answer the remaining questions: guessing (educated, or not), or perhaps a process of deduction.

8. When you've completed the paper, move on to the section below and analyse your score.

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