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Top 10 tips for MCQ tests
Why prepare for MCQ tests?
A part or whole of almost all the competitive exams today consists of multiple choice questions (MCQs). Such an exam, be it an online MCQ test or a pen and paper one, tests a candidate for knowledge, concepts and intelligence. SAT, JEE MAIN, JEE ADVANCED, AIPMT, CAT, BITSAT and all other competitive exams for admission to under graduate or post graduate courses conduct such tests. Even companies and state and central governments recruit candidates through such tests. However, such tests are somewhat different from conventional school or college exam patterns. They need to be taken in a different way to score good marks. This article assumes that you have already prepared yourself for an MCQ test and tells you only about how to take such an examination. Though you need to prepare for such MCQ tests in a different way too, this article is only about taking an MCQ test and nothing more. Following tips come handy for MCQ tests:
1. Accelerate your mind before the start. Maintain a uniform speed throughout.
This is a method which gives you a good start in the examination. What you do is enter the exam hall in a relaxed mind and about 5 minutes before you are supplied the question booklet or allowed to key in username and password in an online test, you start thinking about a well prepared numerical problem and its solution. Again there is a time gap between the instant you are supplied the question paper and the instant you are actually allowed to start answering. Keep yourself in a pleasant and relaxed mood in this period.
What happens is you get the question paper in an accelerated- thinking-state of the mind. Your mind is already active by the time you and start answering. So you start better and faster.
Moreover, do not try to speed up in the beginning. As you enter into the thick of the question paper, your speed naturally increases. If you try to exert more in the beginning, you may run out of stamina by the end. So maintaining a uniform speed throughout is a better choice. It keeps your mind stable too and you do not panic.
2. Read the questions cautiously and then answer. Pay special attention to questions with more than 1 correct answer.
Read this question: A job can be done by 3 persons in 4 days. How many persons will be required to complete the job in a day and a half?
(a) 8 (b) 12 (c) 9 (d) 18
A cautious candidate will calculate the answer as (a) 8. But the examiner has cleverly set a trap for a careless candidate with the option (b) 12. If you are not careful enough, you may calculate the number of persons required to do the job in a day, that is 3X4=12.
So read a question carefully to understand what is required and see the options with great concentration and then only choose the correct answer.
Some questions in some exams are designed to have more than one correct answer and you are supposed to choose the multiple correct answers. Suppose you read a question and look at the option (a). If option (a) is correct and you are not careful enough you may choose it as the correct answer and move to the next question. But if there are multiple correct answers you will be given zero credit since you are supposed to get marks only if you choose all the possible correct answers in such questions. To make the matter worse you may be negatively credited if negative marking is at play.
3. Do not try to solve everything in one go.
In an MCQ test there is no use reading the whole question paper. It will only waste your time. Start immediately after opening the seal of the question booklet or when you are allowed to start at your computer, if it is an online test. Go to the section you have decided to attempt first and start answering. The important thing is not to waste time over questions which seem to be difficult. Each question paper has a mix of easy, somewhat difficult and difficult questions. So it is better to attempt all the easy questions first. You may come back after hovering over the question paper once and then solve the difficult questions. The long questions which may consume a good chunk of time in reading may be avoided in the first go.
4. Take half to one minute breaks if possible.
Finding time to take a break in an objective type question paper is not easy. But it is advisable to take a very small rest intermittently, say after every half an hour, by closing your eyes, relaxing the muscles and breathing deeply. The rest period may be as small as half to one minute. It increases your efficiency.
5. Learn as many short-cuts as you can and apply them in the examination.
There are many short-cuts which come very handy in MCQ tests. Coaching houses and expert teachers teach these short-cuts to their students for success in such tests. For instance, try to solve the following question:
If you go for solving this question in the conventional way, this may take a considerable span of time. But there is a short-cut to it.
You have to know in advance that the answer will be of the form
A ln (x+1) + B ln (x-3) + constant
In the given partial fraction, A can be evaluated by equating x+1=0 which gives x=-1 and putting this value of x in rest of the expression, that is,
It gives us A=3/4. Accordingly you can find the value of B and then calculate the answer. This is an old trick from Vedic mathematics. Similarly there are hundreds of short-cuts which should be known to you for faring well in MCQ tests. Only advice in this regard is that you should be very careful while using these short-cuts. Apply them only if the situation in the question is exactly similar to the short-cut you have learnt.
6. Use method of elimination.
This method is to be used when you are not sure about the answer. Reduce the number of choices by eliminating the ones which seem to be entirely out of chance. Among the remaining choices, the one with maximum probability may be chosen. If only one answer is supposed to be correct but you find that more than one answer are almost similar, then all such options may be eliminated. An option may be wrong in itself and can thus be eliminated. It means that irrespective of the question, the fact contained in the option may be wrong and so the option may be eliminated.
7. Sometimes guessing the answer intelligently may fetch you some marks.
What are the things necessary for photosynthesis? ‘Photo’ means light and even if you do not know the answer perfectly you may guess that at least one of the things should be light of some form. Indeed as you know, it is sunlight. Sometimes a question may end with ‘an’ and you can guess that the answer will perhaps start with a vowel. Sometimes examiner sets a trap in one or more options by trying to divert the examinee away from the answer. Intelligent candidates possess the necessary talent to identify and leave away such distractions. Sometimes on the other hand, those answers are more likely to be correct which are constrained by words like ‘sometimes’, ‘not always’ than those bearing ‘always’, ‘never’ etc. On occasions, you need to test each option for a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and at last select the best answer.
8. Use the negative marking to your advantage.
In a recent competitive examination I observed that 1 mark was supposed to be deducted for a wrong answer and 4 marks were to be awarded for a correct answer. Now suppose you try to make educated guesses for 5 questions. Even if one of the 5 attempted questions turns out to be correct you are safe since the effective score remains unchanged (4-1X4=0). And since you will be making educated guesses, chances are that you may correct more than 1 out of 5 questions. This way you have good chance of increasing your score. If you feel that you have answered very few questions in the first go and stand no chance, then you may try this method. This method may also work well when 3 marks are to be allotted for correct answers and 1 mark is to be deducted for a wrong answer. Only thing is that the guesses must also be well analyzed.
9. Make your time plan before hand and if required, tweak it slightly
It is not wise to change your time-plan in the examination. You should be ready with your time-plan in accordance with the pattern of the examination. The subjects which consume less time, like general knowledge, English, Chemistry etc. should be attempted first and those likely to take more time like reasoning, quantitative aptitude, Physics, Mathematics etc. may be attempted later. As you progress through the question paper and feel to tweak the plan you already have, you may do so according to your ability with respect to different sections. Entirely altering it may prove to be a self-defeating exercise.
10. Change your answer if you are confident.
Generally our first guess is more likely to be the correct one. But while revising if you feel that some alterative is more correct than the already chosen one you may go for a change if you are fully confident.