PTCB Exam PTCB Test Prep

Top 10 Tips on How to Answer MCQs!

May 17th, 2020
how to answer MCQs


Multiple-choice question (MCQ) exams are more widespread than ever. As part of the PTCB exam or any other major pharmacy exam, candidates are asked to take an MCQ exam to test their knowledge of the finer, intricate details. Here, we review the top tips on how to answer MCQs for these exams.

MCQ exams have, for that reason, become a major source of stress for the student. Questions are often written in a challenging style, whilst many of the answers may – at first glance – appear correct. To master any MCQ exam, you must have a clear strategy in mind.

Below, we have put together the top 10 tips on how to answer MCQs. These tips are not specific for the PTCB test or pharmacy exams in general but are applicable across the board – no matter what discipline or subject is under examination.

By implementing these top MCQ strategies, you raise the likelihood of leaving the exam with the best possible mark you could have achieved. Enter an MCQ exam without a strategy, even with the best memory, you will struggle.

Let’s get started.

#1 – Read the Full Question

At first glance, this may sound obvious.

But it is not so obvious. Many students enter MCQ exams and rush through a question – often because they are so confident that they know the answer. However, it is extremely easy to overlook important words in a question – such as “not” – which completely transform the meaning of a question.

You must take your time, read the question in full, and understand what specifically it is asking you.

#2 – Eliminate Any Bias

Once you have finished reading a question, never look at the answers.

Instead, try to establish the answer in your own mind first. If instead you first review the answers, you may be biased into choosing one that you would not otherwise have done.

The purpose of our tip is to establish your own knowledge level. If you can think through and work out the answer in your own mind, and the answer happens to be listed, it is likely that you have worked out the right answer.

Reading answers first may confuse you and lead you down the wrong path.

#3 – Always Eliminate Incorrect Answers

This goes back to our earlier tip about rushing through MCQs.

Many test candidates impulsively choose an answer, perhaps because it is something they feel they memorized. However, nothing is ever guaranteed, and you may have learned, or misremembered something important.

Even if you feel strongly about an answer, always eliminate incorrect answers to verify that you have selected the correct answer.

If you do not know the answer to the question, follow the same process to rule out as many wrong answers as possible.

#4 – Choose the Best Answer

Sometimes you simply will not know the answer to an MCQ.

In this case, rather than trying to choose the “right” answer, try to choose the best possible answer. Rank the available options into most and least likely, having good reasons for your analysis.

Sometimes even if you do not know the right answer, you may be able to establish the best likely answer.

#5 – Manage Time

There are two incorrect ways to complete an MCQ exam:

  • Rushing through the exam, assuming you are doing well.
  • Spending far too much time on some questions, and not others.

Neither of these strategies are optimal.

Instead, candidates must manage time. This means spending an equal amount of time on each question. Do not spend a disproportionate amount of time on any one question. If you do not know, move on to answer the questions you are more confident about.

Then, return to the more difficult questions toward the end.

Always leave that extra 10-15 minutes at the end of the exam to review your answers to ensure no inadvertent mistakes took place.

#6 – Make Educated Guesses

Never answer a question for no good reason.

There is always some way to work out an answer, even if partially. You need to work on each question and ensure that as much knowledge as you have learned is applied. This means actively thinking about each answer and what you know about it. The more you think, the more knowledge comes through, and the greater chance it gives to make a more educated guess.

Perhaps the educated guess is bad, but it is better than making no attempt at all.

And in MCQ exams of 100 questions, this strategy can make all the difference across a wide number of questions.

Furthermore, if this attempt grabbed you a few extra marks to ensure you just tipped over into the “Pass” category, it was worth all the effort.

#7 – Arrive On-Time

One of the most important tips on how to answer MCQs is to arrive on-time before the MCQ exam.

How you behave before an exam sets the tone for how you are likely to perform during the exam. If you are stressed and rushing to the exam center, you are likely to be more stressed as the exam starts.

The last thing you need is to get off on the wrong foot.

Arrive on time – around 30 minutes before the exam is set to start. This gives you the chance to relax and prepare and enter the exam with the right mentality.

#8 – Examine the Wording of Questions

We briefly mentioned this earlier, but there are some words that have a transformative impact on the meaning of a question.

These include words such as “always”, “never”, “not”, and “sometimes”.

“Always” is almost always wrong. Usually, there is at least 1 exception – and test candidates cannot be expected to remember absolutely every exception about everything. That said, there may be a small minority of cases that are correct!

Pay extra attention to these words in a question. It can make all the difference to the meaning.

#9 – “All of the Above”

“All of the above” is one of the most common answers in MCQ questions.

One of the best tips on how to answer MCQs with this choice is to identify just two options that are true. If this is the case, then “all of the above” is more likely than not to be the correct answer. Of course, this assumes that you are not completely sure of the answer.

If so, this approach is statistically the best one to take.

#10 – Answers with the Most Detail

This, again, is a statistical tip – and one only useful if you do not know the answer.

Basically, it goes like this – an answer with the most detail is more likely to be the correct answer.

Again, there will be exceptions to the rule, but examiners tend to be more specific about the correct answer – and this means they will naturally put more information into the correct answer to satisfy this.

By implementing these top tips on how to answer MCQs, you maximize the chance of coming out of the exam with the highest possible result with the information you learned before the exam. Check back to PTCB Test Prep soon for more great tips and tricks to maximize your exam success!

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PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.