Preparation for Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) Exam

PLEASE NOTE: This information should be read in conjunction with the Preparation for Online Time-Limited Exams

MCQ exams test your understanding of a broad range of material, usually broader than essay style questions. You are expected to not only know basic definitions, but also intricate details of your subject. You are less likely to “bluff” in an MCQ, as answers are defined as either right or wrong.

Answers other than the right answer(s) are designed to distract you from the correct solution. This means that all of the answers may sound very similar and the difference between right and wrong might be tiny.

Depending on your subject, you might have to answer questions based on provided material like tables or graphs. Make sure that you understand the provided materials before you answer any connected questions.

Common misconceptions

"MCQ exams are easier than essay style exams"

Students expect that they need to learn less for MCQs as the right answer is guaranteed to be present. That might be the case, but if you don’t know the right answer, that isn’t going to help you.

"Only basic concepts and things can be tested with MCQ exams"

Wrong, MCQs are well-designed to also ask very in-depth knowledge from a broad range of subject material. It is the same amount of work for your lecturer to ask for basic definition as it is to ask for intricate details.

How to learn for an Online MCQ Exam?

You have to study for an online MCQ exam like any other exam, maybe even more! A lot of knowledge can be tested in a short amount of time with MCQs.

  • Take good notes.Having well organised notes, allows you to learn and remember the material better for the exam. Use different colours to make finding connecting concepts easier and to have some fun.
  • You are given potential answers in the MCQ. Your job is to recognise the correct one. When revising, try to identify potential questions that could be asked of the material.
  • Create Flashcards to learn definitions from your modules, you can learn more about the use of flashcards here. MCQs are particular well suited to test your knowledge for definitions and other “only one right answer” type of knowledge. Be aware sometimes MCQ answers only differ in tiny aspects, so be precise in your learning!

Answering MCQ exam questions

  • Know the rules: Read your instructions carefully. Make sure that you understand whether only one answer is the correct answer, or if several answers can be correct!
  • Be precise: Most marks are lost in MCQ exams through the misreading of questions
  • Read the entire question carefully, don’t just glance at the question and select the most logical answer. Be aware of double negative and other grammatical structures!
  • Answer the easy questions. You can mark any question you want to recheck in Canvas, so first try to answer all questions before you go back over the questions you are unsure about
  • If possible, cover the answers given while reading the question and come up with your answer before you uncover the possible answers. If you see the expected response, mark the answer and then double-check that none of the other answers provided fits better
  • If you don’t see your answer, try the following:
    • Rephrase the question, making sure to keep the core question valid
    • Consider each of the choices as true or false statements
    • Use reasoning to eliminate wrong answers increasing your chance of selecting the right answer
    • Watch for qualifiers that may catch you out (“always”, “never”)
    • Look for grammatical and other language clues
  • If there is no negative marking (losing points for wrong answers), it is better to guess an answer than to not answer a question
  • However, if negative making is in place (you lose points for wrong answers) and you have absolutely no idea about the answer, it is better to not answer the question
  • Above all else, keep going! With so many questions delay can cost you time, so stay focused and keep moving forward!

Your exam will be submitted through Turnitin, therefore all normal procedures regarding plagiarism must be observed. Remember also that collusion – cooperating with other people during the exam - is a form of plagiarism.  Self-plagiarism – where you resubmit work previously marked – is also a form of plagiarism.  All forms of plagiarism is considered to be serious academic misconduct.  All suspected forms of plagiarism will be subject to procedures as laid out in the UCC Plagiarism Policy.

Exam related videos from the 'Gimme Two Minutes' series!

The Skills Centre 'Gimme Two Minutes' video series, available for viewing on YouTube, focuses on very basic concepts related to the academic writing and preparation skills, delivered by the University College Cork Skills Centre in a short and visual format. These videos can be used as self-learning tools and give you a taste of what sessions and workshops the Skills Centre offers to UCC students.

UCC Skills Centre Radio Show: All about exams

Episode Five: All about Exams

This week we are delighted to go through some exam preparation. We are thrilled to welcome Dr Eithne Hunt and Dr Edel Semple to the studio for their advice. Caroline Schroeter, Patricia O’Connor, Loretta Goff, and Kristina Decker welcome Kathy Bradley, Skills Centre Coordinator, back to discuss exam time and the Skills Centre Exam Bootcamp.


Useful videos from the 'Minute Methods' video series

This series is brought to you by the Skills Centre Avatars Joey, Millie, Steve and Eunice. The avatars have spent time with the Skills Centre tutors to create short snappy videos that will help you to develop good study habits and academic writing etiquette, all in just one minute.