MCQ exams are unquestionably different from the essay writing that we were used to in school. I remember my time in the pre-medical years, where we use to fill the answers on the OMR sheets. Things have changed since then, although the OMR sheets are now less famous, the MCQ exams are still equally dreadful. When my teachers during my pre-medical exam used to guide me through the strategies for test-taking, I would just roll my eyes. Nevertheless, I followed what they said because I knew that they know better. So, here’s my list of strategies with the mix of my mentors’ plan of action to help you take the MCQ exam and score high.
1. Do Not Get Stuck to One Question –
The far-reaching drawback in an exam would be the inability to complete the exam. Forget complete, the worse would be the inability to attempt the questions you were confident about. You have to be mindful about the time you are giving to each question. Else you will get anxious, which will eventually increase your stress through the rest of the exam.
What can you do?
- To start with, consider giving < 1 minute to each question. Of course, you are not going to keep track of the time on every question but check the average time you have spent on each MCQ through the test analysis at the end.
- Skip questions that you are not well aware of. You can get back to them later.
- If you are not able to complete your test on time, you should take a look at points 3-5.
2. Know Which Questions You can Take a Risk to Attempt –
It is particularly important for all the exams that deduct a mark for every incorrect response. If you are preparing for an exam where there is no negative marking, you can skip this point. However, if you belong to the preceding category, you should be careful about what to attempt.
What can you do?
There are 2 things that you should keep in mind –
- If you are confused between 2 options only, then taking a risk might be wise. But if your head is spinning between 3 responses, it decreases the probability of getting the answer right. In that case, just skip the question and get back to it later.
- Keep in mind that to get in the rank list there is a good number of questions that you need to attempt – which might be around 80% of the questions (can vary from exam to exam), considering the average incorrect responses one candidate might fill. So if you are aiming less than that, then you have to be sure you get them right.
You really need a balance between the above mentioned. Keeping both of it in mind, practice your tests to get a better idea about the main exam. This however is not a thumb rule, the more you control the negatives the better. However, do not attempt < 50% of the questions because even unknowingly there will be some questions you will get wrong.
3. Have a Plan on How to Attempt the Questions –
This will be customisable to everyone. It depends on how you approach the MCQs, and what keeps you comfortable. One lesson that I learnt was not to try out anything new on the day of the exam.
What can you do?
- Practice self-assessment and simulate the exam environment.
- The first approach is to answer only the questions you know and skip the rest of it to review in the next round. Keep in mind that you have to be quick if you are following this method because reading a question will take time, and then if you do not answer it – the time you spent reading goes in vain. This might create a vicious cycle of losing time every time you read the question.
- The second approach is to go through the questions and meanwhile analyse which questions are you willing to risk an attempt. Do not spend enough time thinking and anticipating. Overall this will save time, but the risk of getting incorrect answers also increases. Personally, I use this approach because I do not prefer to go back and read all the questions I skipped again.
- Most of the exams (online) give an option to bookmark the questions, use this to your advantage. Mark questions that you really want to look back to and confirm in the end.
You can read about – Mistakes to avoid during revision.
4. Focus on What the Question Expects you to Know –
This is something that you can get hold of through your practice tests and question banks. You do not need in-depth information about any of the subjects, there are only 10% questions in any exam that cover the heavy knowledge. The examiners do not expect you to have a PhD in any topic. You can undoubtedly master the art of answering the questions.
What can you do?
- While solving the question bank think like the examiner, think what they wanted you to know. Once you start getting hold of it, your study pattern will take a huge turn for all good reasons.
- Do not look at the options before you read the question. It will only increase your bias.
- When reading the question, try to think of the differentials and start ruling out.
- Then check the options and start eliminating the answers.
- Master the high yield information from each topic. Remember, If you get the easy question wrong, your percentile drops drastically.
- Discuss the questions with friends to understand how they approach it. It will give you a new perspective.
You can read about – How I Scored Above the 95th Percentile in Anatomy?
5. Analyse your Self-Assessments In-depth –
I know you analyse your test every time, but I am not sure whether you are doing it correctly. I do not merely want you to see the score report and the percentiles in each subject. That is one aspect to it, but you require an even better understanding.
What can you do?
- Look at each question that you attempted, even the ones you got right. It is because there are chances that getting a question correct might only be the work of luck.
- If you have got a question wrong, find out the “WHY?” behind it. Was it the time? Was it the confusion between 2 options? Was it the concepts that you got wrong? Identify it and work on it.
- Keep track of the questions you were able to get right by guessing. This will boost your confidence to take some well-calculated risks during the exams. At the same time it will show you the mirror about some absurd reasoning that you applied which turned out in your favour.
I know that exams are stressful. Especially when it comes to the MCQ exams because they are highly competitive. It is paramount to keep a calm mind throughout the exam to let things flow into your brain effortlessly. Try to relax a day before the exam, you can not gulp down the whole Harrison in one day, take a chill pill. Putting yourself under pressure only increases the load on your body, mind and soul. Have a healthy environment around you, talk to friends and give your best shot at the exam. Remember, life has everything well planned for you, do not overthink it.
You are free, you are powerful, you are good, you are love, you have value, you have a purpose. All is well.– Abraham Hicks
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