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Know Your Exam: Question Types

Just as there are multiple ways an exam can be administered, there are many forms that the questions on any given exam might take. Check out our study tips for different question types below.  

Multiple Choice

One of the more common types of test question, multiple-choice questions ask a question and then give the test-taker 2 or more options from which to choose the correct answer.  Some tests will instruct the test-taker to choose the most correct answer, which can trip some people up. One key for success on multiple choice questions is to eliminate the answers that cannot be correct, leaving oneself with fewer possible answers from which to choose.  Most major exams (the SAT and the ACT, for example) feature multiple choice sections.  

Roman-Style Multiple Choice

A secondary form which multiple choice questions can take is that of the Roman-style multiple-choice question. This type of question also appears on many major exams, including the SAT, and on a lot of AP tests. In this type of a question, there will be a question followed by two or more statements, each labeled with a Roman numeral.  The answer choices will consist of different combinations of those numerals and, often, "None of the above." Here's an example question from a pharmacy exam:

Which of the following forms is lidocaine available in? I. IM injectable II. IV injectable III. Topical gel, cream, patch, or spray IV. Capsule A. I only B. I, II, and III only C. IV only D. Lidocaine is available in all the listed forms.

Test-takers should approach Roman-style MCQs the same way they might a regular multiple choice question; eliminate the statements that you know to be incorrect, then eliminate any answer choices that include the Roman numerals associated with the statements you know are false.  

True/False

A true/false question presents a statement, to which the test-taker must respond either "True" or "False."  If you are unsure of an answer on a true/false question, one way to try and make an educated guess is to look at the statement and see if you know if any part of it is true or false, then go with that answer.  Also, if there are no penalties for guessing, then you do have a fifty percent chance of guessing correctly.  

Analogies

Analogy questions require the test-taker to determine the relationship between words or phrases. The Miller Analogies Test (MAT), a test for graduate school admissions in the United States, includes only analogy questions.  For example, a question may take the following form:

Bellicose : Confront :: Mendacious : ___________ A. Deceive B. Enlighten C. Languid D. Consistent

Practicing analogies is the best way to prepare for an analogies test. You can also educate yourself on common traps that people fall into when answering analogy questions. For example, you want to make sure that the relationship between the second set of words is the same as the relationship between the first; many people mistakenly choose answers in which the meanings of the words in the second set is similar to the meanings of the words in the first set.  

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension questions require the test taker to read a selection, often an essay or poem or set of technical instructions, then answer a series of questions about what they have just read.  Often, these questions will be given in the multiple choice format, but it isn't uncommon to find other forms of questions involved in reading comprehension. When answering reading-comprehension questions, you should read the passage carefully before answering questions, taking notes in the margins if allowed, then go back to the reading to answer each question. Additionally, an answer may sound more like the style of the written piece, and that can also serve as a clue to the correctness of an answer.  

Short Answer

Short answer questions may ask for anything from a word or phrase to a number or formula to several sentences, depending on the exam.  When responding to short answer questions, it's important to remember that you're not supposed to give an in-depth answer.  The examiner is only looking for something succinct and specific. If you know you'll be answering short answer questions, look up past exams or practice questions to familiarize yourself with the answer formats you'll be using.  

Essays

The dreaded essay.  The SAT, ACT, and GRE all include an essay section, and this is the section of an exam that people often dread. One of the best ways to prepare for an essay test is to practice writing them.  Ask yourself a question on the subject of the exam, and write about it for a page.  Incorporate these one-page exercises into your study schedule, and you'll be feeling confident come exam day. It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the way that your essay exam will be graded. For example, is your essay computer-graded? Is the computer looking for certain words or phrases or a particular structure. Check out our articles on essay organization and essay-writing for computer-based testing for more information!