Monday, September 1, 2014

First exam advice - multiple choice

Here is an excerpt from OUTWITTING COLLEGE PROFESSORS, 4th Ed (order from

(2) Remember that multiple choice tests are actually more exercises in reading than in whatever subject the class concerns. Students tend to forget this principle, and as a result, end up losing points unnecessarily. So whatever course you’re taking, study it the same way you would a foreign language first, then deal with the subject matter itself. That is, you have to know the words in order to understand the language. To illustrate this point, here are a couple of multiple choice questions from one of my recent exams. The subject is embryological development.
     1. In Protostomia, you would expect (a) the blastopore to become the anus (b) the anus to become the blastopore (c) the mouth to become the blastopore (d) the blastopore to become the mouth (e) the mouth to develop from mesoderm.
     2. In radially cleaving embryos (a) fate of blastomeres is established in the first cell division (b) the fate of the blastopore is established by the 4-cell stage (c) the fate of blastomeres is not determined until at least after the first few cell divisions (d) the archenteron develops from mesoderm (e) none of these.
     Now, here are the same questions but with the vocabulary words (= the foreign language of biology) replaced with gibberish:
     1. In wnitlnlcy, you would expect (a) the xclapic to become the ipxhp (b) the nmnm to become the xclapic (c) the trtrtz to become the xclapic (d) the xclapic blastopore to become the trtrtz (e) the trtrtz to ghjklnm from cvbzoupwty.
     2. In prritzx rucbwyx eicvbasms (a) the ewrt of hklwuciths is plknytxcvb in the first pgksl rycbnqtzx (b) the ewrt of the xclapic is plknytxcvb by the 4-pgksl wtxvnqm (c) the ewrt of hklwuciths is not etdsytpmlk until at least after the first few pgksl rycbnqtzxs (d) the tcbnsxuiqb ghjklnms from cvbzoupwty (e) none of these.
     Obviously there is no way you’re going to be able to answer such questions, or even to guess intelligently, until you learn what those words mean and can use them in sentences in the same manner as does the writer of such questions.
     There will be some classes in which multiple choice questions actually require that you solve a problem of some other kind in order to find the correct answer. Chemistry and physics courses are notorious for these kinds of questions. Depending on how long the exam is, such tests, and multiple choice tests in general, may place a real premium on the speed with which you work, regardless of your intelligence or preparation. This premium on speed is especially evident in large classes.

Lots of other test-taking help in OUTWITTING COLLEGE PROFESSORS, 4th Ed, on kindle, nook, and smashwords, and as a nice paperback from (amazon). Get the 4th Edition.

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