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How To Finish Every Multiple Choice Test On Time

by S. Merritt on September 8, 2009

If there’s one complaint I hear more often than any other from students about their multiple choice exams, it’s that they can’t seem to finish them on time.  And it’s a reasonable complaint. Nothing’s more frustrating than leaving pages of unfilled bubbles – particularly on exams that don’t penalize for guessing.

Not finishing on time is not fundamentally a time-management problem. Yes, you need to keep an eye on the clock, but no, you don’t need to allocate a specific amount of time for each answer. Those approaches don’t work on multiple choice questions because they don’t take into account how much harder (and therefore more time consuming) some questions are.

Finishing every multiple choice test on time is a test-taking skill, not a time management one. To finish on time, every time, you need to use the cycle method of writing your exam. Take multiple passes through the exam, and don’t waste much time on questions that you can’t answer in short order.

In addition to a host of other benefits, the cycle or multi-pass technique does wonders for time management.  It allows you to be constantly aware of how much you have to do in the time remaining. When you work through multiple choice exam from start to finish, in order, you have no idea how much time you’re going to need to get through the rest of the exam – just because you’re on question 50 out of 100 at the midpoint, doesn’t mean the next 50 questions are going to take the same amount of time. When you use multiple passes, you have a much better grasp of how much time you need to finish, Stick to it and you’ll finish on time, every time.

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