Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.
Multiple Choice Tests
Tyler is a behavioral theorist. He believes:
A) Psychologists should focus on people's feelings
B) Psychologists should focus on people's thoughts
C) Psychologists should focus on people's behaviors
If you've ever taken a multiple choice test, or test consisting of questions whose answers you choose from several options, you know that they can be very hard. But some questions, like the one we just looked at, can be figured out in a simple way.
Take the question about Tyler. The question describes him as a behavioral theorist. If you look at the answer choices, one of them (answer C) has the word 'behaviors' in it. By noticing that both the question and one answer choice have words that are similar, you can probably guess that Tyler believes psychologists should focus on people's behaviors, even if you don't know what a behavioral theorist is.
There are many ways to approach a multiple choice test and many strategies you can use. One way to do well on a multiple choice test is to understand some of the common flaws that might appear in a multiple choice question, like having the same word in both the question and one answer choice. Knowing the common weak points in multiple choice questions can help you do really well on the test. Let's look at some of the common flaws in multiple choice questions.
What to Look For
Gene has a hard time concentrating in school, and he fidgets and moves around a lot. Which psychological disorder might he have?
A) Bipolar disorder
B) Manic depression
C) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
So, we know that there are certain mistakes test writers make that can benefit test-takers. But what are the common flaws that might show up on a multiple choice test?
1. Equivalence among answer choices
Sometimes, two answer choices are the same thing. Take the question about Gene's disorder: manic depression and bipolar disorder are two names for the same thing. Those two answers are equivalent. When two answers on a multiple choice test are the same, it almost always means you can eliminate those answers. After all, you can't pick A and not pick B if they mean the same thing!
2. Off-topic answer choices
Imagine that I ask you a question about leaders during the American Revolution, and one of the answer choices is Abraham Lincoln. That doesn't make sense; he had nothing to do with the American Revolution! You can quickly eliminate that answer.
Off-topic answer choices could be from a completely different content area, like having a math problem on an English test, or more likely they'll be from the same content area but a different segment of that content, like having Lincoln as a choice in a Revolutionary question. Both Lincoln and the American Revolution are part of American history, but they are from different parts of American history, and therefore, we can eliminate the answer choice about Lincoln.
3. More detail or longer answer choices
Let's say that I ask what is a major theme of the book To Kill a Mockingbird. All of the answer choices are one or two words, like 'romance' or 'hunting birds.' But one answer is longer and more detailed, like 'the importance of taking others' viewpoints into consideration.' Even without reading the book, it's probably clear that the longer, more detailed answer is the correct one. Often, more detail or length in an answer choice indicates a correct answer.
4. Similar words in question and answer choice
We've already seen this one: remember Tyler, the behavioral theorist who believes that psychologists should study people's behaviors? By having two similar words (behavioral and behaviors) in the question and answer choice, it's like a big red, flashing light letting people know that this is the right answer.
Qualifiers and Absolutes
Annie has two credit card balances. One of them, at 21% interest, has a balance of $1,000. The other, at 28% interest, has a balance of $5,000. Which card should she pay off first?
A) Always the one with the higher interest rate
B) Always the one with the lower balance
C) It depends on several factors
Besides the flaws we've already looked out for, test writers also sometimes use qualifiers and absolutes, which can give a clue as to the right answer. A qualifier is a word that says that something is not universally true. It qualifies a statement and therefore is called a qualifier. Qualifiers are words like often, sometimes, perhaps, may, generally, some, seldom, usually, ordinarily, and others like them.
Absolutes are the opposite of qualifiers: they are words that say that something is universally true. It says that something is absolute, completely true or completely false, and hence it is called an absolute. Absolutes are words like never, none, no, every, always, all, only, entirely, completely, totally, and others like them.
Absolutes are often wrong and qualifiers are often right in multiple choice tests. Look back at the question we asked about Annie's credit card balances. Can you see the absolutes? Both answer choices A and B have the absolute word 'always' in them. That's a big hint that the answer isn't right. After all, everyone is different, and there are usually exceptions to the rule.
Multiple choice tests have questions with several options for answers to choose from. Multiple choice questions often have certain flaws that can help you figure out the answer. These include equivalence among answer choices, off-topic answer choices, more detail or longer answer choices, and similar words in the question and answer choices. Further, some questions include qualifiers or absolutes in the answer choices. Qualifiers often signal a correct answer, while absolutes often signal an incorrect one.
Upon completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Describe common flaws in answer choices of multiple choice tests
- Differentiate between qualifiers and absolutes in answer choices
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack