Defeating the Beast

So it’s exam season….   giphy (2)

I’ll be honest: I hate multiple-choice tests. All of those words and choices throw me into a frenzy and my panic often clouds all of the knowledge I have stored for the exam. As someone who’s both failed and passed with flying colours, I have felt both the highs and lows of test writing. However, ever exam is different and with the growing class sizes, I feel like we will only progress towards adopting more multiple choice style tests in the future. Having talked to many of my friends and peers, I found that many people share my fears and challenges. So, I took it upon myself to go to a test-writing help presentation that is put out by Student Services a few weeks ago. Having gotten a lot of useful information for it, I thought I’d write up a post to share what I’d learned.


Let’s start with misconceptions and premature fears. Having reached this point of our schooling careers, we all have made up a general idea of what we think of multiple choice tests and how we handle them. However, most of those are simple misconceptions and cause more trouble than they should. It is beneficial to keep the following in mind:

  • Your profs are not out to get you. They really want you to excel and so aren’t going to try and trick you. The question might require more through thought, but it is made so to truly test your understanding, not to set up a trap for you.
  • You need to prepare for a multiple-choice test. Thinking that you have a ¼ chance of getting the answer and so guessing or relying on simple recognition will not help you do well. I have yet to do well on tests where I’m mostly just guessing, or trying to work out an answer solely based on “logic”. There’s no such thing.
  • You can do well on a multiple-choice test. Some people go into an exam with a predetermined outcome of failure in mind. Don’t underestimate yourself. You are capable of great things, including doing spectacularly on this test!

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So you’ve cleared up those misconceptions. Now what? Like I said above, multiple-choice tests are more than just recognition tests. You can’t go in without having prepared for it. While most people do try to study for the test, they often don’t change their studying tactics depending on the course. If you’re stuck or think that your current studying habits are not working for you, try out the following:

  • Modify your study tactics to fit what your exam will be like
  • There are some things that you just need to memorize. For things like definitions and facts, try to make flash cards on index cards or use websites like and test yourself.
  • Reading notes is fine, but you need some kind of test to see if you actually are taking in the knowledge. Try to explain the concepts to someone who is not in the same course. If you can get them to understand it, you know that you’ve really got a hang of the material.
  • If your love for YouTube can’t be contained, use it to your advantage and watch a video about your course. Channels like Khan Academy and Crash Course are literal gifts from the Internet gods to help you succeed.
  • Lastly, do practice problems…lot’s of them!

Let’s say you’ve done all of that. You’ve worked really hard and know that you know your stuff. However you can’t get the butterflies in your stomach to calm down. This is that part that I’ve always struggled with myself. Often times, I’ll get very anxious and panic. When you panic, it makes it harder for you to extract the information that you need. To maintain your cool before an exam, try the following:

  • Get a good night’s sleep! I see you rolling your eyes and will just say that I’ve written many exams on little to no sleep and it’s never been worth it. You store a lot of information during sleep and trying to cram a great deal of information into your short-term memory is neither psychologically possible nor beneficial.
  • Eat something. Your brain relies on glucose for energy and you need it to be working pretty dang well during the exam. Don’t be a bully to the very thing that’s working so hard to help you pass and give it the food that it needs.
  • Don’t talk about material right before an exam. My biggest pet peeve is when people start asking me questions about the material or the exam right before we’re about to go in. You’ll just end up making yourself panic. Just don’t. NO.

Exams are stressful enough and past experiences with multiple-choice test don’t make the upcoming experiences seem any less daunting. However, I hope that this helped out a little. If you have tips of your own or even simply rituals that you like to go through before an exam, feel free to share them in the comments below! And if all else fails, here’s a cute gif to get you through:

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Good luck everyone!



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