Episode 8

Multiple Choice Mayhem

Description of the video:

00:00
Student: "I hate multiple choice questions."
00:01
Student: "They seem so confusing!"
00:02
Student: "Is this a trick question?"
00:03
Student: "Do I go with my gut, or do I change?"
00:05
Student: "I always second guess myself!"
00:06
Student: "Did I pick too many of the same letter in a row?"
00:08
Student: "I'm rushed for time..."
00:09
Student: "I'm down to 2 choices."
00:10
Student: "Do I just guess?"
00:17
Narrator: Multiple choice is great because the correct answer is right there in front
00:20
of you.
00:21
But how do you find it?
00:22
And how can you maximize your score?
00:24
Using a few simple strategies, you can use psychology to help you pass Psychology (and
00:29
other courses with multiple choice tests).
00:31
First, a "bird's-eye-view" and some general strategy.
00:34
Then, tips from students, based on science, that will help you bubble your way to success.
00:39
Last, some myth-busting - if you have to guess, what works (and what doesn't)?
00:45
For multiple choice questions you have to recognize the best answer.
00:48
And "best" might mean the most accurate, complete, or inclusive.
00:52
So start by eliminating the losers.
00:55
Read the "stem" (the question itself).
00:57
Underline or circle clues.
00:59
You might try reading each question twice.
01:02
On the first read, identify the topic.
01:05
On the next, identify what the question is specifically asking about that topic.
01:09
Focus on what's actually present in the question and answer options themselves.
01:15
Don't overthink things - don't add words, don't add your own thoughts, or go wild with
01:19
inferences or implications.
01:21
Do not compare answers to each other.
01:24
Judge each choice on its own merit by marking each option with an "X" (if it's wrong), a
01:29
"check" (if it's right), or a "?" (if you don't know).
01:33
This narrows down your options and keeps you working without looking back.
01:36
So cross out those wrong choices right away.
01:39
Don't worry about time for the first half of the testing period.
01:42
Don't spend time dithering back and forth.
01:44
Just keep moving forward.
01:45
You are saving half your time to come back to ones you're not sure about.
01:49
Maybe some other questions in the exam will spark some insight or remind you of something.
01:54
When the period is half over, if you do not have half the questions done, now you want
01:59
to start budgeting time.
02:01
Those are some general tips.
02:02
Here are some tips on test-taking, based on science.
02:06
Now, it turns out that what a lot of students actually do works and is supported by science.
02:11
A survey of students in a large lecture class of the most common major on the IU campus
02:16
found that there are 2 ways students succeed with multiple choice questions.
02:20
Student: "I look for key words and context clues."
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Narrator: Instructors have to give you identifying clues to let you know what material the question
02:27
is referencing.
02:29
So mark the words that remind you of particular lectures or readings.
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This might include concepts, technical terms, names/dates/events/historical periods, words
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from flashcards that you studied, what the teacher or book mentions or spends a lot of
02:44
time on.
02:45
Every term or example from class is a potential "retrieval clue" that can help you recall
02:50
the correct answer.
02:51
Having trouble picking key words or confused about what the question is asking?
02:55
Try putting the question into your own words.
02:58
Or think about it like this: Most multiple choice questions can be divided into two types:
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Definition Questions or Relationship Questions.
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Definitions test your understanding of the meaning or definition of a concept or term.
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Relationships test your understanding of the relationship between two or more concepts
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- like cause and effect, chronology, processes, compare and contrast, example or scenario,
03:23
application; something like that.
03:25
Read the question and mark the key words that will help you figure out which one it is.
03:30
Check out the website to look at some examples.
03:33
Assuming you recognize some of the key words in the question, what strategies can you use
03:37
to hone in on the best choice?
03:39
Student: "I choose the one that makes the most sense."
03:41
Student: "I choose the one that sounds the most familiar for the subject."
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Narrator: These are cognitive or thought strategies.
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They use memory or learning processes to access or associate with things you learned.
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These are best if you studied.
03:54
What about when you can eliminate a couple of bad answers, and are down to two?
03:58
What about when you have no clue?
04:00
Keep watching!
04:01
When you are down to 2 possible answers, there are meta-cognitive strategies, or thinking
04:06
about thinking strategies, that can help.
04:09
Focus on each choice separately, again, looking for cues or clues - terms and examples you
04:15
recognize.
04:16
Look also for "alarm words."
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Alarm words include absolutes like "always" and "never" (which make a choice more limited
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and often incorrect) and qualifiers like "sometimes" or "often" (which makes a choice more inclusive
04:30
and often correct).
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Alarm words also include negative words like "no," or "except," and even negative prefixes
04:38
("dis-," "non-," "un-").
04:40
Check out the big list of alarm words on our website.
04:43
When they have no idea, or feel they are doing badly on the exam, students sometimes resort
04:48
to "psyching out" the test itself.
04:50
These are called "test-wise strategies" (like "when in doubt, 'C' your way out," pick the
04:55
longest answer, and stuff like that).
04:58
This is when you really have to guess.
05:00
Do these work?
05:01
Some do.
05:02
And some might.
05:03
Let's do some myth busting.
05:05
"I shouldn't change my answer or second-guess myself."
05:08
I'll just stick with my first instinct."
05:09
Narrator: Myth! Many people believe this, but research shows that the majority of answer changes are from
05:15
incorrect to correct.
05:17
We only doubt this because we usually just notice the times we changed and regretted it.
05:23
We tend to overlook the instances where re-thinking helped!
05:25
So if you have a sense that you should change, go with it.
05:29
Student: "When in doubt, 'C' your way out."
05:31
Student: "'B' smart."
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Narrator: Myth!
05:33
Strategies to guess a consistent letter choice have actually been found to negatively affect
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test performance.
05:40
Don't worry about getting too many of the same answers in a row, and don't necessarily
05:44
guess a middle letter choice.
05:45
Student: "The longest answer is probably the right one."
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Narrator: Some research says about two times as long and some three.
05:52
A few words likely doesn't mean much, though.
05:55
Student: "If two choices are similar, or complete opposites, one of them might be the right answer."
06:00
Narrator: Maybe, according to some studies.
06:02
If you have to guess, go ahead and guess one of them, if you haven't any other basis
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for deciding...
06:08
Student: "Choose the middle value."
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Narrator: Another maybe!
06:10
Some studies suggest that if all answer options are numbers, avoid the most extreme values
06:16
and choose the value that is (sequentially, if put in numerical order) in the middle.
06:21
Now for the recap.
06:23
Student: Don't worry about time until halfway through.
06:24
Student: Read the question and mark it up, looking for reminders and key terms.
06:28
Student: Take each answer and consider it separately.
06:30
Student: Mark those up, too, with a "check," or an "X," or even a "?" if you don't know.
06:34
Student: If you're really puzzled, before guessing, think about what type of question
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it is.
06:39
Student: Is it a definition or a relationship question?
06:40
Student: Studying early and often can help a lot.
06:44
Distribute your study weeks and days before the exam, in smaller segments, to help the
06:48
memory processes and your scores, too.
06:51
Narrator: Being a good test-taker comes naturally to some, but you can learn to approach a multiple
06:55
choice test with confidence.
06:57
Having some strategies can help you get control A. some of the time, B. most of the time C.
07:05
all of the time, or D. all of the above???

Tips & Tricks

Today we'll introduce you to some helpful tips (based in science), as well as some general strategies to help you bubble your way to success!

Download a transcript

Exercises

  1. What parts of a multiple choice “stem” (the question itself) are helpful to mark and why?
  2. What advice does this episode give about how to mark answer choices to help you find the best one?
  3. What is the difference between a definition and a relationship question? Create an example of each.
  4. What common “test-wise” strategies have been proven to be effective, which are outright myths, and which, if you’re desperate, might sometimes be true?
Download the exercises