Objective tests measure both your ability to
remember facts and figures and your understanding of course materials.
These tests are often designed to make you think independently, so don't
count on recognizing the right answer. Instead, prepare yourself for high
level critical reasoning and making fine discriminations to determine the
best answer. The most common objective test questions are multiple-choice,
true-false, and matching items. Doing well on these questions requires
that you not only master the information but also interpret the testmaker's
intentions. You know you have mastered the information if you can:
recall specific terms, facts, names, and other
key words; become proficient in the language of the course.
distinguish the ways in which ideas, facts,
theories, or other observations differ from each other and categorize ideas,
facts, theories, or other observations according to the ways these are
answer the questions and solve the problems
in the text and create your own questions or problems.
Preparing for Objective Tests:
Review notes and text(s) - list the major concepts
that have been covered.
Highlight topics that were stressed. Note why
they were stressed.
Think vocabulary. Every field of study has its
own vocabulary, so identify words and terms used to represent specific
concepts (i.e., the word "paradigm" in a social science course), and treat
them as you would a foreign language. Make flash cards for frequent drills,
and try to use these words whenever you work with course-related materials.
Compare and contrast. Sometimes objective questions
can be used to test your ability to distinguish concepts, ideas, theories,
events, facts from each other. Construct diagrams, charts, tables or lists
to summarize relationships.
Recite for precision. Review your retention
of the information by recalling it often. Use odd moments, in addition
to 15-20 minute review sessions, to say or write out complete ideas and
facts. It is very important to verbalize the recalled information completely
and in a detailed manner so that you will have a precise idea of your mastery
of the material.
Taking Objective Tests:
General tips -
Plan your time. Allow more time for high point
value questions; reserve time at the end to review your work, and for emergencies.
Check with your instructor whether or not you
can write on the test.
Before starting the test, turn it over and jot
down all the facts and details you are trying to keep current in memory.
Look the whole test over, skimming the questions and developing a general
plan for your work. If any immediate thoughts come to you, jot them down
in the margin.
Read the directions very carefully. Look for
time limits, specific answering procedures (i.e., answer 3 out of the 4
questions below), how questions will be graded.
Start with the section of the test that will
yield the most points, but begin working with the easiest questions to
gain time for the more difficult ones and to warm up.
Work quickly, check your timing regularly and
adjust your speed when necessary. Do not get stuck on one question at the
cost of losing time for another one.
Avoid reading into the questions. When you find
yourself thinking along the lines of "this is too easy; there must be a
trick..." mark the question and move on to another. When you begin modifying
the question, the answer you will come up with will be different from the
one on the teacher's key. Interpret questions literally.
Choose the answer the testmaker intended--stay
within the scope of the course. If you know facts that are beyond the level
of sophistication of the test, 1) record the intended answer, and 2) point
out the possible ambiguity and make a case for a different answer either
in the margin of the test or during the next regular class.
Mark key words in every question. To help find
the key words, ask yourself WHAT, WHO, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW?
Multiple choice questions -
Probably the most commonly used objective question,
the multiple choice question, consists of two parts:
You are to select the correct choice, the option
that completes the thought expressed in the stem. There is a 20% chance
that you will guess the correct choice if there are 5 choices listed. Although
multiple choice questions are most often used to test your memory of details,
facts, and relationships, they are also used to test your comprehension
and your ability to solve problems. Reasoning ability is a very important
skill for doing well on multiple choice tests.
Read the stem as if it were an independent,
free-standing statement. Anticipate the phrase that would complete the
thought expressed, then compare each answer choice to your anticipated
answer. It is important to read each choice, even if the first choice matches
the answer you expected, because there may be a better answer listed.
Another evaluation technique is to read the
stem together with each answer choice as if it were a true-false statement.
If the answer makes the statement a false one, cross it out. Check all
the choices that complete the stem as a true statement. Try to suspend
judgment about the choices you think are true until you have read all the
Beware of words like not, but, except. Mark
these words because they specify the direction and limits of the answer.
Also watch out for words like always, never,
and only. These must be interpreted as meaning all of the time, not just
99% of the time. These choices are frequently incorrect because there are
few statements that have no exceptions (but there are a few).
If there are two or more options that could
be the correct answer, compare them to each other to determine the differences
between them, and then relate these differences with the stem to deduce
which of the choices is the better one. (Hint: select the option that gives
the most complete information.)
If there is an encompassing answer choice, for
example "all of the above," and you are able to determine that there are
at least two correct choices, select the encompassing choice.
Use hints from questions you know to answer
questions you do not.
If you do not find an answer, try to relate
each answer to the stem to evaluate which one logically completes the thought.
Make educated guesses--eliminate options any
way you can.
the stem - the statement or question.
the choices - also known as the distractors.
There are usually 3 to 5 options to complete the stem statement or question.
Also a popular question type, the true-false
question has only two options. Your odds are always 50-50 with this type
of item. Typically, testmakers tend to focus on details in true-false questions.
Testmakers often mismatch items or names with
inappropriate events or definitions.
In order for a statement to be true, it must
be so 100% of the time. This means each part of the question. Thus you
must evaluate the trueness of WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW for
Beware of words that qualify and give specific
meanings. Words like some, usually, not, usually denote true statements,
but be sure to interpret each statement as a special case.
Another type of word, such as always and never,
should be interpreted as meaning without exception. If you can think of
an exception, the statement is false.
Matching questions give you some opportunity
for guessing. You must know the information well in that you are presented
with two columns of items for which you must establish relationships. If
only one match is allowed per item then once items become eliminated, a
few of the latter ones may be guessed.
The relationship is the crucial factor in a
set of matching items. Usually the relationship is common to all included
items. For example, all the items in Column B define the terms in Column
A, or the individuals named in Column A wrote the books listed in Column
For every match you make, cross out the items
in both columns (unless there is more than one match possible).
Begin with the lengthier column containing the
information, evaluating the items in the column with shorter descriptions
for a match. This way you save time by not constantly having to re-read
the lengthy statements.
Analyzing Returned Objective Tests:
After you get your graded test back, analyze
the questions. If you do not get your test back, visit your professor in
his/her office where the test will be kept on file and ask for your graded
answer sheet to analyze your performance on the test.
Read all comments and suggestions.
Look for the origin of the questions. Did they
come from the notes or the book(s)? From the class or the lab?
Look at the questions you missed. Verbalize
the rationale for the correct answer--figure out why the correct answer
was better than your answer.
Did you really know the answer to a question
but you failed to read it carefully enough to recognize it?
Were there any areas tested you failed to prepare
for? Why didn't you?
Did you misread any questions?
Check the level of difficulty, or the level
of detail of the test questions. Were most of the questions over precise
details, or were they over main ideas and principles? Did most of the questions
come straight from the material covered or did the testmaker expect you
to be able to analyze and/or evaluate the information?
Were you able to finish the test within the
Did you have a difficult time during the test
because you were too anxious to focus on the questions?