Now that you’ve seen the structure of multiple choice questions and some of the options that can be applied in
creating an exam, let's look at some actual tips to make multiple choice exams a little more manageable. Again,
these tips won’t help you if you don’t know the material. But if you’re prepared, the tips will assist you in dealing
with the mechanics of the questions.
#1 – RTFQ2
That’s right. Read the f#@%$*g question. TWICE!! Many mistakes are made on MC exams because
questions aren’t read carefully. This often leads to the wrong answer even if you know the subject matter. Consider
#4 in the example questions
If this question is mis-read, a candidate could begin looking for the CORRECT option. If the options aren’t scanned
carefully, a candidate may choose ‘b’ since that’s the first “true” statement. The correct answer is ‘a’ because it’s false.
#2 – Answer the Question Without Looking at the Options
This isn’t always possible, but whenever
it is, you should do it to help reduce or eliminate the effect of distractors. In the
question’s 1, 2, 5, 6, & 7 can
be answered this way. Question’s 3 & 4 require you to look at the options since the stem allows for more than one possible
HINT: The phrase, “Which of the following ... ” often implies that you must look at the options in order to
identify an answer.
#3 – Treat the 4 Options as a True/False Series
If you can’t determine the answer without looking at the
options, treat each option as an individual true/false question. This helps to reduce the complexity of the question from a
multiple choice to a set of true/false, which is much simpler. It will also help you improve your odds of guessing correctly if
you partly know the answer and can reject one or two of the options.
#4 – Select-A-Set Questions
With this type of question (such as sample question #7
), it is especially useful to
treat the set of items as a series of True/False options. Then you can look for your list of “True” items in the list of options.
Even if you only know the True/False result for part of the series, that partial knowledge can help you narrow down the options,
or even eliminate enough to choose a single answer.
#5 – Use Visual Aids
Some problems are easier to deal with if you make a sketch of the information, whether it’s
a graph, a picture, a flow chart, or some other sort of graphical help. Also, don’t be shy about using your hand as a model
airplane and moving it through a maneuver in order to determine the answer to a question.
#6 – Estimate Calculations
If the question involves a calculation, make an estimate of the answer. This estimate
should give you an idea of what a reasonable answer is and help you recognize gross errors in your calculations.
“Estimate” in this case includes identifying trends and upper or lower bounds to the answer. For example, consider question
data that states: elevation is 2,000 ft, temperature is 20°C, and altimeter setting is 28.92"Hg. If you are asked the density
altitude, you can note that the temperature is above standard and the pressure is below standard—both suggesting that the density
altitude must be higher than the elevation. So if 2,000 ft or any lower altitude is offered as an option, it must be wrong.
#7 – Watch Out for Red Herrings
For procedural problems or any problems that require calculations or any
degree of problem solving (as opposed to simple factual recall), take the time to identify and clarify what information you need
to solve the problem. The stem can include extra information that is there to distract or mislead you.
#8 – “All of the above” and “None of the above”
In exams that are not carefully proof-read, “All of the
above” or “None of the above” are usually correct answers when they are provided. This is because the creators of exams have
no inclination to include these as options if they aren’t correct. However, Transport Canada exams are carefully proof-read and
these option are sometimes included even when they are not correct. This is also the case for these practice exams.
If you can identify one option that you know is incorrect, that automatically cancels “All of the above” as an option. By
doing this, you’ve increased your chances of choosing the correct answer even if you don’t know it (50% instead of 25%).
Sometimes, two options are mutually exclusive. This eliminates “All of the above” even if you don’t know which option
is wrong—and keep in mind that it’s possible they’re both wrong! On the other hand, if you know with certainty that two
options are correct, but are unsure of the third, choose “All of the above” since it must be correct.
#9 – Absolute Answers are Often (not always) Wrong
Options containing words like “always” or “never”
leave no room for exceptions. This is rarely the case in reality and is often (not always) indicative of the wrong answer.
#10 – Guessing
On Transport Canada exams, if you don’t know the answer, guess! Never leave an answer blank.
Guessing gives you a 25% shot at being right, even if you don’t know the answer. However, you are not penalized for getting
the answer wrong. Having said this, if you find yourself guessing, it would be nice if you could increase your odds over 25%.
To this end, consider the following:
PARTIAL KNOWLEDGE: If you have partial knowledge of the answer, use the knowledge to reduce the number of
distractors. This will boost your odds from 25% to 33% or 50%, depending on how much you partially know.
MULTIPLE FILL-IN-THE-BLANK: Questions such as
#6 in the sample questions
are often a pair of either-or question combined to make four
options. If you know one of the questions, then you only have to guess the other—giving yourself 50/50 odds rather than 25%.
GUESSING WITH “ALL/NONE OF THE ABOVE”: Where a random guess gives you that 25% chance of being right,
guessing “All/None of the above” when one of them is available increases your odds—but, as stated above, doesn’t give you
any guarantees. The exact odds will vary depending on how often the option is present on your exam and how often it is a
correct answer. But it’s probably a fair estimate that guessing “All/None of the above” will give you a 50/50 shot at being right.
GUESSING CALCULATIONS: If you’re really desperate and have to guess, cancel the highest and lowest options. This
isn’t a sure thing, but if you’re completely at a loss, it can improve your odds.
ABSOLUTE ANSWERS: As noted above, absolute answers are often wrong. If you’re guessing, rule them out.
THE LONGEST ANSWER: A corollory to absolute answers being wrong is that more qualified answers tend to be right.
This leads to the conclusion that longer answers are more likely to be right than shorter answers
(sure enough, someone has even studied the phenomenon and
written about it).
WHEN IN DOUBT, CHOOSE ‘C’: “When in doubt, choose ‘c’” is a common piece of advice for writers of MC exams.
This is due to the fact that the producers of these exams tend to place the correct answer third out of four options. Whereas
guessing should give you a 25% chance of being correct, guessing ‘c’ actually gives you roughly a 33% chance of being correct.
Unfortunately for pilot candidates, Transport Canada exams are carefully proof-read and this advantage is eliminated. In
other words, when you are unsure of the answer, choosing ‘c’ gives you no advantage over any other letter.
PRACTICE EXAMS: The interface for these exams doesn't allow submission of an incomplete exam. So you can;t skip questions
you don't know. However, you should be sure to keep track of topics/questions you guess on so that you won't be mislead about
your knowledge level if you guess correctly.
#11 – Pace Yourself
3 hours = 180 minutes for 100 questions. That’s 1.8 minutes = 1min48sec per question. If
you run out of time, that’s just as bad as not knowing the material. So pace yourself carefully. The factual recall questions
require much less time than budgeted (you either know them or you don’t). So that gives you a little more breathing room for
the procedural problems that eat up your time.
#12 – Checking Over the Exam
There is a widely held view that you should avoid checking your work on an MC exam. However, the research done in this area does not support
this view. While it is possible to change a correct answer to an incorrect one, it is far more likely to change an error to a scored point.
A 2005 study of introductory psychology midterm exams found that when students changed their answers, they went from wrong to right
51% of the time, right to wrong 25% of the time, and wrong to wrong 23% of the time (Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, Vol. 88, 725-735) (http://www.socialpsychology.org/testtips.htm).
The idea of not checking over MC exams probably stems from an artifact of our memory. When we discover error that we created by changing the
original answer, the emotional response makes this error memorable. However, correcting an error barely registers after the test is over. As a result, our
memory is biased to remember the errors we created rather than the corretions we made (flight instructors refer to this as the law of intensity).
#13 – Use Exam Information
Sometimes, a question on the exam will provide factual or interpretive information (usually within the stem) that may help you answer a different