There are so Many Choices!
First off, let me explain that attempting to take a test or exam without studying is not a great way to assure success. My suggestion is to plan in advance how specific or general your study for a particular exam will be. It helps to be familiar with the favorite question styles or topics of the person who wrote the JAMB exam.
Multiple choice decisions are much more common in daily life than we realize. When we look around at all the information that we pass on our daily activities it’s obvious that we are constantly being required to sort, categorize and prioritize information in order to make it useful. Most of these decisions are fairly inconsequential and minor but some can have immediate or long lasting repercussions.
An overabundance of information can result in information overload. When we process information we must break it down into a digestible size and organize it so that we can understand it. Multitasking is only useful if we can effectively process the amount and various types of information we are being presented with.
The same decision making process that we use to process information effectively throughout our day can also be applied to a specific area of endeavor such as test or exam writing. By sorting out information presented to us on a test, we can greatly increase our effectiveness. Here are a few quick rules to greatly increase your multiple choice (multiple guess) test taking effectiveness.
Things You’ll Need:
- Scratch Paper
- Calm or lowest stress level possible in a given situation
This does not refer to actual time spent studying the subject material in question
During the test use your time wisely. Divide the test into sections and allow specific time for each or divide the number of test questions by time available for each question. If there are ten multiple choice test questions and three hours to answer them it is much different than having 100 test questions and only an hour to answer them.
Learn to adjust your stress level (applies to pre-test and during test situations). Research the topic of cognitive thinking and learn to detect the most common thinking errors. An example of this would be “all or nothing thinking” and a solution to this might be learning to re-frame our thoughts so that we can deal with test day stress. Getting hyped out is not a great strategy for test taking.
Prior to taking a particular test or exam, it is imperative to achieve an alert but calm state mentally. This is best achieved when a normal Beta brainwave is achieved which allows us to learn without the stress associated with a high Beta brainwave state. The best way to maintain this state is to rate your own stress level from 1 to 10 with 10 being the most stress.
If your anxiety level reaches 8 out of 10 you should pause and do slow your breathing rate and gradually refocus your thoughts onto details you are able to control. This is equally important if you are a race car driver or clerical assistant.
Proper decisions are rarely made when sudden high stress levels are encountered. The one exception is when we are in an acute life or death situation. For example, you are out for a walk in the mountains when a boulder suddenly becomes dislodged above you and begins to plummet directly at you. Obviously this is a ridiculous example but it outlines one of a few situations where instant panic is appropriate. For the vast majority or decisions it is better to use an alert but calm manner.
In a test situation it is best to rehearse and visualize your self-walking into the exam in a calm but alert manner. Also visualize yourself calmly going through the steps outlined no matter how demanding the test is. Do not say to yourself, “If I don’t pass that exam tomorrow I am doomed” or “This test is going to be impossible to pass”. Thinking about possible negative outcomes is only useful if you use it to motivate yourself in a positive way
Rule out the answer choices that are TOO BROAD in Scope. This includes eliminating the longest answer unless all parts of a long answer make sense. Incorrect answers are often long answers and many people will choose this answer because it’s filled with lots of important sounding stuff. Generally a broad answer tries to include too much information about too many things.
Rule out the choices that are TOO NARROW in scope. This includes ruling out extremely short answers. A narrow answer often includes an “always”, “never” or some type of absolute statistic such as “9 out of 10 dentists agree”. A correct answer generally takes more than a few words to explain its point unless it is a specific date, place, name or similar.
Rule out answer choices that are TOO SPECIFIC. These can often be identified as choices that use words such as “Always” or “Never”. This choice can overlap with answers that are too narrow in scope. For example, if a test question states that Columbus discovered America at 3:00 P.M eastern standard time on March 4th 1492, it is probably wrong.
Rule out answer choices that are TOO GENERAL. An answer that does not appear to get to the point, is vague or seems or does not seem to pertain to the question asked, is often wrong.
Rule out answer choices that have INCONSISTENCIES. Poor or Faulty Logic and questions that appear to have conflicting, contradictory or explanations that don’t seem to go anywhere are some examples of this. This is simply any part of an answer that does not make logical sense when compared to the question.
Rule out answers that are overloaded with TOO MANY WORDS or use overly analytic, philosophical or intellectual wording. This includes questions that can have two or more meanings. The answer choice should contain only enough information to properly answer the question.
Look for the “TRICK” question. An overly simplified example of this can be found in the statement “If a plane crashed on the border between Canada and the United States, Where would you bury the survivors”. Don’t assume a test contains more than a few trick questions or you could lose focus.
Avoid answering using the “ALL OF THE ABOVE” answer option unless ALL answers meet the criteria for a valid answer. In other words don’t assume that because most answers sound somewhat or mostly correct they are all correct. Use this only when all answers appear to be true or false and choosing one answer would be very difficult. An all of the above answer should be the last option considered.
WORK FROM KNOWN TO UNKNOWN when analyzing details. Use scratch paper to jot down even the most vague word, information, statistic or calculation that might relate to the answer. Then try to build any additional information on top of the first point. Hopefully it will help you progress sufficiently to the point that you can rule an answer that isn’t close to the conclusion you might arrive at if you knew all the details.
Look for KEYWORDS that are specific to certain questions. When multiple choice tests are created the answer choices are often built around a certain keyword. Remember, keywords are only valid if they appear to relate to the specific question. A trick question may include a well-known keyword that does not relate to the question.
ANSWER THE EASY QUESTIONS FIRST. * Always be aware of the amount of time spent answering each question. Ironically we tend to spend the most time answering test questions we are least familiar with. This a recipe for test disaster. Move past difficult questions quickly and return to them later, they may make better sense later.
LATHER, RINSE, REPEAT. You can use the above steps repeatedly until you have answered all questions to the best of your ability. Once you have narrowed down a question to 2 choices you are guaranteed at least 50% on the exam. This is where actually knowing something about the subject helps. You should be able to find keywords that stand out on correct answers and be able to relate them to something you studied. By removing incorrect answers and information that does not fit the question it becomes easier and easier to spot the correct answer.
Tips & Warnings:
- When attempting to answer multiple choice tests requiring specific technical answers, work from known to unknown. It is surprising how many people try to solve the most difficult portion of a problem first.
- Always be alert for test questions that are similar to previous questions as they may contain information that can be used to answer other questions.
- Do not attempt to inject greater meaning into a test question than is reasonable. A common mistake is to assume there is a deeper meaning to a question than is provided by the general information provided.
- Practice ahead of time to hone your skill level at reasoning. Use examples in magazines, journals, news, study materials, TV shows, conversations and Internet blogs.
terryorr, eHow Member contributed to this article