Tips for short answer and multiple choice questions
These questions will show up in just about all of your papers, so it’s important you know how to approach them.
With the right strategy, you can save some extra time for the essays or long responses at the end of the exam, so we need to be smart about this. 👀
While multi-choice questions may seem as simple as “you know it or you don’t”, there are a few tricks you should know to maximise your chances of getting it right.
1. Get a head start in reading time
If you’ve read through the whole paper and have some reading time left, start working through the multi-choice questions in your head. It’s a lot easier to remember these answers than it is to draft an essay up there! Then, once you can pick up your pen and start writing, you can get straight into it. 💪
2. Rule out the options that are obviously wrong
You might not know the right answer right away, so start by crossing out the answers that are definitely wrong. With fewer options, you can think more clearly about which answer is correct. And, if you end up needing to guess, narrowing it down to two options means you have a 50% chance of getting it right, rather than a 25% chance. 🤯
3. Read every question and each possible answer
While you might be tempted to move through the multi-choices quickly to get to the rest of the paper, carefully working through each option is essential. You don’t want to risk falling for the ‘trick option’ (an answer that looks right but isn’t) and not reading carefully enough to see there’s a better answer just below.
4. If you don't know, take a guess
Okay, there’s also a very slight chance that you’ll come across a question that you have no idea about. But that’s okay, have a guess! There’s still a 25% chance you’ll get it, rather than 0% if you leave it unanswered.
It can be disheartening if this happens, but don’t let it affect the rest of your exam. Remember that it’s only one mark, so make a guess, move on, or revisit the question later. Just don’t leave it blank when handing your paper in!
5. Use your multi-choice answers to help respond to other questions
Often, the content covered in the multi-choice section of the exam will relate to other short or long answer questions. Use the evidence from these questions to formulate your written answers, or even to remind you of the syllabus dot points.
With a good strategy for short answers, you'll have the best chance of securing some high marks and put yourself in the best position for the essays and long responses at the end of the exam. 💯
1. Pay attention to the key verb in the question
In each question, there’s a word that tells you exactly what you need to say about the content. It might be how, why, what, identify, explain, demonstrate or more.
These keywords are super important for writing the best answer, so be sure to know their definitions and exactly how to use them.
2. Don’t waste time writing more than you need
They’re called short answers for a reason! Your marker will be looking for just a few things in your answer, so don’t waste time adding extra information that wasn’t asked for. Not only does it make it harder for your marker to see your logic, but you’ll also have less time to complete the rest of your exam.
3. Stick to a strong structure
As mentioned above, markers are looking for clear, concise and logical arguments. Using a tight structure will ensure you achieve this, and make it easier for them to follow your response.
Our Exam Skill lessons will give you a good indication of how to structure your response depending on the subject you’re studying. 🤤 Sign up here to get started with a free Atomi trial, or log in if you have an account!
4. Pay attention to the marks for the question
The number of marks allocated to a question is often a good indicator of how much you need to write for your answer. For example, a question worth 5 marks will require more content than one worth 2 marks. For example, a question worth 2 marks might ask you to define a particular concept and provide an example. For 5 marks, you might need to define two concepts, provide examples for each, and then compare them, which will take a bit more time to plan and write out!
We can use the marks to estimate how much time should be spent on each question.
We often focus more on the essays and long responses in an exam, but there are serious marks to win (and possibly lose) in the multiple choice and short answer sections. As well as knowing your stuff, ensure you’ve got the right approach for each kind of question, and you’ll be ready to ace your exams.