Multiple choice questions can be very tricky. But understanding how they work and taking a systematic approach to them will make them much more manageable. Of course, none of this will help if you simply don’t know the material. But if you’re prepared with regard to your knowledge level, some preparation for the style of examination will help reduce the stress level associated with the exam and enable you to manage the mechanics of the questions—which, in turn, will improve your performance. This preparation will also help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of multiple choice exams that may not be related to how well you know the material. In other words, our objective here is to develop your skills with respect to the mechanics of Multiple Choice exams—i.e., we want to improve your test-taking skills.

To begin with, let’s consider the structure of a multiple choice question. Each question consists of the question itself (often called the “stem”) and a set of options to choose from to indicate the answer. Within the options, there is one correct answer and a set of incorrect answers (often called “distractors”). These distractors are in place to distract you from the correct response. On Transport Canada exams, there is one correct answer (of course) and there are three distractors. Your job as a pilot candidate is to select the correct response from the four options that are presented. Consider the following as an example:

Who was the first Prime Minister of Canada?            STEM
       
1) Brian Mulroney.            DISTRACTOR
2) John A. MacDonald.            ANSWER
3) Jean Chretien.            DISTRACTOR
4) Pierre Trudeau.            DISTRACTOR

In this question, we can see the typical layout of a multiple choice question.

Multiple choice questions can also have one of several different questioning styles, they can:

  1. be actual questions with potential answers as options (direct question – #1 below),
  2. be truncated sentences with potential endings as options (open ended/sentence completion – #2 below),
  3. require you to identify the true or false statement from the options (another form of direct question – #’s 3 & 4 below),
  4. require you to choose the option that provides a word or words to fill-in a blank space in the stem (fill-inthe- blank – #’s 5 & 6 below), or
  5. require you to select multiple options from a list provided (select-a-set – #7 below).

A given question can usually be presented in more than one format. For example, the following seven sample questions are all the same basic question in different multiple choice forms. Any given exam would normally include a mix of all of these question types.

#1 – Direct Question
In what year did the space shuttle Challenger explode during launch?
  1. 1981.
  2. 1982.
  3. 1986.
  4. 1987.
#2 – Open Ended/Sentence Completion
The space shuttle Challenger exploded during it’s launch sequence in:
  1. 1981.
  2. 1982.
  3. 1986.
  4. 1987.
#3 – Direct Question TRUE
Which of the following statements is true with regards to the space shuttle Challenger?
  1. It was used to install the Canadarm II on the International Space Station.
  2. It exploded and was destroyed during a launch in January, 1986.
  3. It was retired in January, 1989 due to metal fatigue.
  4. It is the space shuttle with the most flight hours.
#4 – Direct Question FALSE
Which of the following statements is false with regard to the space shuttle Challenger?
  1. It required extensive repairs after a major launch accident in 1986.
  2. It was the second space shuttle to be launched, Columbia being the first.
  3. It had 9 successful missions.
  4. During it’s last flight, it was destroyed in an explosion.
#5 – Fill-In-The-Blank (Single)
In __________, the space shuttle Challenger exploded and was destroyed during launch.
  1. 1981.
  2. 1982.
  3. 1986.
  4. 1987.
#6 – Fill-In-The-Blank (Multiple)
The space shuttle __________ exploded and was destroyed during launch in __________.
  1. Columbia, 1986.
  2. Columbia, 1987.
  3. Challenger, 1986.
  4. Challenger, 1987.
#7 – Select A Set
Which of the following statements about the space shuttle Challenger are correct? The space shuttle Challenger:

      a) required extensive repairs after a major launch accident in 1986.        d) had 9 successful missions.
      b) was the second space shuttle to be launched, Columbia being the first.        e) was destroyed in an explosion during it’s last flight.
      c) was used to install the Canadarm II on the International Space Station.
  1. a, b, c.
  2. b, c, d.
  3. b, d, e.
  4. b, c, e.