Written Exam Advice
This section contains some tips on exam technique for approaching written examinations. These can come in a variety of forms, including:
• MCQs (multiple choice questions): each option must be marked as either true or false. There are a number of increasingly popular variants to the 'classic' MCQ theme of multiple true-false (MTF), including SBA questions and EMQs.
• SBA (single best answer): also often known as 'best of five' - each question has a number (usually five) of answer options. Only one of these is correct; the one 'best' answer should be selected.
• EMQs (extended matching questions): a list containing a selection of answer options is offered; this list usually applies to a number of individual questions.
The secret to passing any kind of multiple choice question (MCQ) exam is to practice as many questions as possible. Working through PasTest's Question Bank will help, but it is also important to get a feel for the type of question that may appear in the exam. Supplement your online experience with MCQs from books, or material provided by your institution. This may vary between medical schools. Use the 'Timed Test' function to check you are answering enough questions in the time and the 'Mock Exam' function to give yourself experience of a whole exam. Some institutions still operate negative marking - be sure to know if your medical school does, as this will heavily influence your approach. In this system, a wrong answer removes a mark ( -1) from your score.
Whatever undergraduate curriculum you follow, there will always be a core of questions that will test all undergraduates. As a guide, go to our Revision Checklist to check your revision has covered these core areas. Our database of undergraduate MCQs has been developed by editors who currently work in undergraduate teaching - to ensure that the balance of questions is up-to-date and mirrors the spread of topics in an actual exam. There will always be some variation in difficulty - and this is reflected in the questions provided in our question bank.
Single Best Answer Questions (SBAs) - also referred to as 'Best of fives'
Each SBA has five possible answers. One of these is the MOST correct option for the question or scenario presented. Remember, more than one stem may be 'correct' - it is the SINGLE BEST stem required. There may be some red herrings - try to spot these and rule them out early on so you can better assess the 'possibles'. If you cannot answer a question, mark it with an asterisk and come back to it later.
Multiple True/False Questions (MTFs)
Remember that in MTFs, each answer stem is to be assessed in isolation of the other stems - each can test a different quantum of knowledge. Consider each stem in turn, read the question and the stem together, and answer for THAT stem before moving on to the next. Because of the different possibilities of 'trues' and 'falses' per question, it can be confusing to guess the answer to an MTF. If you are unsure, mark the question with an asterisk and come back to it later.
Extended Matching Questions (EMQs)
Each EMQ you encounter will have a theme, a list of options, an introductory statement and a series of stems or vignettes. All options are feasible and are clustered around the chosen theme. Due to the larger number of options, it is less likely that you will 'guess' the correct answer.
It is important that you read the introductory statement and do not just proceed to 'matching' the items.
Approach each stem or vignette independently - although along the same theme, they can assess knowledge slightly differently (and there is a mark for each stem). The same item may be used more than once for each stem.
General MCQ tips
You should develop your own way of approaching these questions and stick with it through the exam. You can develop this approach throughout the course of your revision - be aware that a 'system' can be useful in focusing your mind during the exam. Here is an example of some good techniques:
• READ THE QUESTION! This is perhaps an obvious tip, but many candidates are caught out by not reading the question carefully!
• On first read, don't look at the suggested answers. Instead, ask yourself what the answer is. If you then check the list and your answer appears, there's a good chance it's the right one!
• Before selecting your answer, check that the other stems are indeed incorrect.
• If you are unable to answer the question at first, start by eliminating those stems that you know are incorrect - therefore giving yourself a better chance of picking the correct one.
• If you can't answer, move on with the exam and come back to it later. Remember - time is limited.
When reading the question, consider that certain words can give you a clue to getting to the right answer.
* 'Always' or 'never' are, more often than not - false
Changing your mind: Research shows that changing your answer in an exam is neither good nor bad. If you have a good reason for changing your answer, change it. It is a myth that people always change from 'right' to 'wrong'.
When you have finished the exam, check through to make sure you have answered ALL the questions. Never forget to ensure you have done this.
This material is provided courtesy of PasTest Online Revision for Medical Students.