Are multiple choice tests easy? With no writing involved and the correct answer being written on the page in front of you some people might think so. But even multiple choice tests can prove challenging without proper preparation. So, as you study for your exam, you may want to consider the following.

Multiple choice questions might feature more than one plausible answer. This means you’ll have to choose the one that is the ‘most correct’ (usually one option is more specifically appropriate to the clinical scenario presented in the stem). If you are having trouble deciding on an answer it can be helpful to think about what you would do in your clinical practice, according to current Australian-based guidelines or best practice. In exams such as the Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) or MCQ exam, you are required to use your medical knowledge and apply this to the clinical scenario presented, to determine the most correct answer.

It is important to make sure that you read the wording of the question and of the potential answer options VERY carefully. For example, the correct answer for a question asking for the ‘most important’ diagnosis would usually be different from ‘the most likely diagnosis’.  The distractors (incorrect answer options) might look plausible at first glance, but when you read carefully you may find they contain wording which makes them an incorrect response. .

For example, if your preferred answer includes an absolute such as ‘never’ or ‘always’, yet you can think of a single counterexample – then that definitive answer is not correct. A single exception is enough to prove that statement wrong. It is easy to miss words and to misinterpret what you have read, particularly when you are under stress, so make sure you remind yourself to read carefully!! Doubting or second guessing yourself is easy to do in stressful situations like a multiple choice exam.

So, a multiple choice test can be quite tricky. But if you approach it with care and a critical reasoning attitude, you’ll be better prepared to pass with flying colours.

How should you prepare for your multiple choice exam?

Practice, practice, practice. For example, ensure that you complete the practice AKT released by the RACGP in the lead-up to the exam. Cases in this practice exam have been selected from previous exams so gives you a very good idea of what to expect on exam day. Can’t find enough multiple choice questions to practice on? Either purchase a subscription to professionally written ones like Dr MCQ or form a study pair/group and write questions for each other!

  •  Exam preparation at work – In the RACGP’s AKT or ACRRM’s MCQ exam, the multiple choice questions are written by experienced GPs who currently work in clinical practice. The questions are based on clinical presentations typically seen in an Australian general practice setting. This is important when you consider how to approach your study. The patients who walk in your door at work are providing you with great study material, so spend some time looking up the latest guidelines and ensure that you are up to date with the current best practice for examining, investigating and treating your patients at work.  
  • Read the public exam report released by the RACGP or ACRRM after each exam cycle. This provides general feedback and example cases from the exam.   

Read the instructions before you start

Don’t skip any instructions or the clinical stem. Failing questions you should have easily passed because you didn’t read the instructions or the scenario properly will cause you frustration.

Pacing is also important. Try and make sure to time yourself so that you’ll be able to not only go over your answers before handing in the exam paper but also ensure all questions are answered. This could help you avoid unnecessary mistakes made in a last-minute scramble to finish before time is called. Also, remember – there is no negative marking in the RACGP AKT or ACRRM MCQ. So, it is important to answer EVERY question, even if a guess.

Measure your time and calculate your exam strategy before you start

  • Be familiar with the exam. Read any RACGP or ACRRM exam information or instructions prior to the exam, such as how many multiple choice questions you’ll have to answer in how much time.
  • Divide the amount of time you have to complete the exam by the number of questions.
  • Deduct enough time to reread through the questions and answers before you hand in your exam paper.
  • Once you know the number of minutes you can spend on each question, watch the clock and stick to your schedule. If a clock isn’t available, set the timer on your phone.
  • Practice keeping this pace every time you complete mock or practice exams.
  • Stuck on a question? Flag it and move on to the next. Go back to it at the end. Don’t sacrifice time and marks on the following questions by wasting too much time on one difficult question.

Complete the easy questions first

Go to the easy questions first and complete them. This prevents missed opportunities if you’re running short on time at the end. It can also help with exam nerves and increase confidence.

Don’t rely on instinct

Make sure you’re using evidence-based facts to select which answer option is correct. Don’t let your feelings or instinct determine your choice of answer.

Analyse the questions’ grammar and phrasing

Look for words or phrases in the answers that aren’t compatible with the questions. For example, answers that contain words defining measurement such as all, most, half or full can be dismissed if they don’t align with the phrasing in the questions.

Tables, graphs and images

When approaching a multiple choice question that includes tables, graphs or images, read the question before looking at any of these attachments. This will enable you to zoom in on the part of the table or graph that you need to examine in order to determine the correct answer.

Strategies for correct answers

If you’re having trouble selecting the correct answer, try these strategies:

  • Cover the answer options and underline or highlight key words in the questions.
  • Identify the distractors in the answers and rule them out. Is the correct answer clear? Remember distractors can be versions of the correct answer with words added to make them slightly incorrect, or they may simply be slightly less appropriate for the clinical scenario than the correct answer
  • Don’t revisit questions unless you’ve completed the exam. Pondering over a single question for too long can disturb your equilibrium and your pace, as well as waste precious time.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question and have run out of time, guess. “Intelligent’ guessing includes discarding any known incorrect options,  selecting a precise answer over a broad one, and avoiding options that include words that are absolutes such as always, total, perfect, never, empty or impossible.
  • Don’t ever leave a question blank. It’s better to guess than to skip it altogether, as there is no negative marking in this exam!

Be strategic and don’t stress

By definition, exams are stressful. And in some ways, multiple choice tests can cause more anxiety than exams that require short written answers. But when you approach a multiple choice test with the right strategies and methods, it’s an obstacle that you should be able to overcome.

GPEx’s Dr MCQ courses give you access to more than 1,100 high quality multiple choice questions to help you practice for the RACGP’s AKT or ACRRM’s MCQ tests. You can create your own customised quizzes to suit your learning needs and there are also four timed mock exams to benchmark your performance and increase your likelihood of passing the real exam.

With Dr MCQ you’ll also get tailored one-on-one coaching to help you maximise your exam preparation and performance on the day.