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Succeed at Exams

About this guide

This guide provides sample multiple choice questions and strategies on how to answer them. 

Let’s look at the 10 common types of multiple choice questions and how to decode them.

1. The look-alike set of options

Definition

In a look-alike set, all the options are very similar.

Example 

The highest correlation of IQ scores between family members has been found for

  1. identical twins reared apart
  2. identical twins reared together
  3. fraternal twins reared together
  4. fraternal twins reared apart

Strategy

  1. Identify the differences between each of the options and eliminate the incorrect ones.
  2. Notice that each of the options is set up in the same format: [type of twin] [how the twins were reared]
  3. You can eliminate options by looking at each part.
    1. What type of twins should have the highest correlation in IQ scores? You may not know the answer to this if you haven’t taken any Psychology courses. If you think the answer is “identical twins”, get rid of options C and D. If you think the answer is “fraternal twins”, get rid of options A and B.
    2. How should the twins be reared to have the highest correlation in IQ scores? From the remaining options, decide between “reared apart” and “reared together.” This makes the multiple choice question easier to solve.

2. Flipping the text of the definition with the term

Definition

Identify the key term based on a definition.

Example

A(n) (insert term) _________variable can be any factor, other than the variable being manipulated, in the experiment that might affect the dependent variable.

  1. interval
  2. correlational
  3. independent
  4. confounding

Strategy

Define the terms in each of the options.

3. The negative option

Definition

Look for the wrong answers instead of looking for the matching answers.
These questions often use these words: not, except, never.

Example

Anxiety disorders are characterized by all of these symptoms except

  1. panic attacks
  2. free-floating anxiety
  3. a split between affect and cognition
  4. inconvenience in living

Strategy

  1. Turn the question into a true or false prompt and eliminate options.
    1. True or false, anxiety disorders are characterized by:
      1. panic attacks
      2. free-floating anxiety
      3. a split between affect and cognition
      4. inconvenience in living
  2. Based on this new  question, the false answer is the correct option.

4. The multiple option

Definition

More than one option could be correct.
Possible answers to these types of questions often include one of these phrases:

  • [option] and [option]
  • some but not all of the above 
  • all of the above.

Example

One limitation of the dispositional approach to personality is that

  1. people behave in very similar ways in different situations
  2. the approach is better at describing than at explaining personality
  3. A and D
  4. it overemphasizes environmental factors

Strategy

Read each of the options and check if they are correct. If more than one option is correct, the answer could be a combination of options.

In this example, if option A is correct, remember to check if option D is also correct.

5. Two columns of options

Definition

Fill in the blanks in the form of multiple choice.

Example

Troia has a (insert first term) _________ identity (her unique characteristics) and (insert second term) __________ identity (characteristics that make her part of a larger whole).

  1. personal; group
  2. social; personal
  3. group; social
  4. group; personal

Strategy

Answer the question as if it were two separate multiple choice questions.

Pick one of the columns to answer first and then eliminate the wrong options. This will give you fewer options to pick from for the rest of the question.

6. Degrees of change from a study

Definition

Apply concepts in different situations and predict the outcomes.
This type of question may include a focus on organs, biological systems, diseases, processes, etc. All of these can be turned into this type of multiple choice question. The topics are taken out of their usual context and you have to predict what will happen.

Example

Mandy has no rods in her retina. Cliff has both cones and rods in his retina. Mandy and Cliff both go into a dark movie theatre after walking in the bright sunshine. While in the dark, Mandy will

  1. increase her sensitivity to light faster than Cliff
  2. increase her sensitivity to light more slowly than Cliff
  3. eventually develop greater sensitivity to light than Cliff will
  4. eventually develop less sensitivity to light than Cliff will

Strategy

Identify how a concept is applied in different contexts

Answer: What happens if…?

7. Sequence of events

Definition

Select the correct order.

Example

In vision, sensory information takes which of the following routes

  1. receptors, sensory nerves, medulla, cerebral cortex
  2. sensory nerves, receptors, cerebrum, cerebral cortex
  3. receptors, sensory nerves, thalamus, cerebral cortex
  4. sensory nerves, receptors, hippocampus, cerebral cortex

Strategy

Draw flowcharts to remember the order of events.

Watch out for: processes, timelines, pathways.

8. Rephrased as a scenario

Definition

Recognize a key term described in an example.

Example

Indiana Jones looks at the ground near his feet. He hears a hissing sound and sees a long thin shape with scales. From this information only, he determines the object is a snake. He is using(insert term) _________ processing.

  1. ecological
  2. top-down
  3. sequential
  4. bottom-up

Strategy

Create examples for key terms in your readings and lecture notes. Applying the definitions will improve your understanding and prepare you for these multiple choice questions.

9. Degree of applicability

Definition

Pick the best option based on the scenario. These questions often use words like most, major, main, least, least likely, best, probably.

Example

Dr. Johnson studies how juries make decisions as a group. She is most likely a (insert term) _________psychologist.

  1. quantitative
  2. social
  3. clinical
  4. biological

Strategy

Compare and contrast key terms. A lot of terms can be similar, but you want to know how they are different. These differences will help you identify why the terms are unique and how they can be applied.

10. Statistics from a study

Definition

Identify the key facts and figures from your class readings.

Example

According to the 2004 study by Deary and colleagues, the correlation between the intelligence test results of a cohort of 11-year-olds in 1932 and the intelligence test results of the same cohort as 80-year-olds was approximately:

  1. -.66
  2. -.33
  3. .33
  4. .66

Strategy

When you're studying:

  1. Summarize the key findings from your readings and lecture notes:
    • What was the purpose of the study?
    • What did the researchers do?
    • What were the results?
    • What do the results mean?
  2. Read the abstract and summary of the research paper.

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