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Multiple Choice Questions - Look for Clue Words and Numbers

Multiple-choice questions (MCQs) are frequently used at med schools to assess student learning that demonstrates clinical reasoning and sound assessment of possible outcomes in patient care. MCQs enable students to move beyond straightforward recall of facts and start making connections between and among clinical symptoms, biological processes, statistical data and images/graphs.

Pointers for working with MCQs

  • If two choices are similar in all aspects, except in one entity, one of them is probably correct.
    • HOWEVER, the above format becomes null if the question is accompanied by a caveat, e.g., EXCEPT.
  • Answers that include the following words are usually incorrect: always, never, all, must
  • Answers that include the following words are often correct: seldom, generally, tend to, probably, usually
  • Look for grammatical clues between the question and the choices. E.g., the question and correct answer often have nouns and verbs in agreement.
  • Pay attention to familiar words or phrases that seem to resonate from a lecture or textbook. Think about the information and its connection to the current question.
  • Often, we select choices that include unfamiliar words or phrases because we assume that they must be right because “I don’t know this” or “it’s not familiar”
  • Be aware of choices that offer extremes of a numerical range; often, they may be deceptive. Pause. Rethink. Are the extreme values plausible?

Rashmi Kumar, Ed.D.
Associate Director & Specialist in STEM Learning, Weingarten Learning Resources Center