How to: ace multiple choice exams

Multiple choice

Multiple choice exams are the bane of my existence. I can write, even succinctly, on a million topics if I really try but something about having very black and white answers when the law isn’t black and white, is really difficult for me.

1. Time it out

I had an exam the other day that was 3 hours with 30 questions. Obviously, I had to do 10 questions in an hour to at least finish the exam. A 30 question test on Payment Systems sounds awful. But 10 questions in an hour about payment systems isn’t as bad. By timing out your exam, you can “check up” on your progress throughout the testing period. If you’re behind, it’s time to speed it up just a little while making note of potential wrong answers. If you’re ahead, you should have time in the end to go back.

2. Read carefully

Law professors like to be tricky. One of the tricks I learned freshman year of high school was to look out for key words that can eliminate wrong answers. The most obvious are “all of the following” and “none of the following” but words like “but”, “if”,  and “not” can be key words that there is more than one component to the answer.

3. Skip questions and remove answers

Unless it’s an exam that builds on the questions before it, the first thing I do is go through and determine if I know, 100% what the answer is or not. This completely goes against psychological research but works great for me. In the course of an exam, I’m likely to come across a few questions I absolutely know or can guess the correct answer just using logic. While I’m going through questions, I try to eliminate answers I know are wrong no matter what. If it’s clear a battery happened and two of the answers say no it didn’t, obviously those are wrong.

4. Take a break

Stretch, take a sip of water, or close your eyes. It’s perfectly fine to take a break for a few seconds before you move on to your next question.

5. When in doubt, use the clock method

I just had the clock method introduced to me by another 2L and it’s the funniest test taking strategy I’ve heard in a while. There are always questions that I know no matter what, I don’t know the answer to and can’t figure out what a decent answer would be. When you get to these questions, look at the second hand on an analogue clock. If it’s 1-3 the answer is A, 3-6 the answer is B, etc. Luckily, our testing rooms have a huge analogue clock with a seconds hand but if not, where’s the minute hand?

I’ve never done poorly on multiple choice. I use poorly for lack of a better word because I’ve definitely done well below what I find acceptable. Multiple choice is different than regular law school exams and different than multiple choice tests in undergrad and high school. Ultimately, the underlying success strategies are the same so when you’re stuck, figure out what you did in middle school.

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