Michelle's independent resources for ESL Students at Vancouver Community College

This is a Canadian ESL blog for Intermediate and Advanced Students who want to learn and improve their English. Each PAGE above contains thousands of free English lessons, tutorials and practice exercises to help you learn and improve your English grammar, reading, listening, pronunciation, speaking, writing and editing. Some of the resources are Canadian. Others are from around the world.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tips for Taking Multiple Choice Tests

General Tips                                                

Use your time wisely. One of your main goals is to finish the test. If you use your time wisely, you will finish. In reading and  grammar tests, you are usually given one minute for each  question in the test. If you find one question very difficult, do NOT spend three or four minutes thinking about it.  Put a star next to the question and go on to the next question. If you still have time at the end of the test, go back and answer the questions you had problems with. It is better that you have one wrong answer on a difficult question than 10 wrong answers on questions  you were not able to answer because you didn't have enough time. 

Pay attention to the clock. Many students do badly on multiple choice tests because they do not pay close attention to the time. They always seem shocked to hear that there are only ten minutes left. ALL exams are timed tests. They are designed to see how well you can do under pressure. This means that you MUST frequently check on the time. How much time do you have left? and how far have you come on the test.? If the clock says you have 10 minutes left on your test, you should be almost finished,  with only a few questions left. You should have at least five minutes to go back  and check on difficult questions. 

Listening Tests                            

  • Do not try to understand every word every word you hear. Focus on the key points - WHAT is this about? WHO are the people talking? WHERE are they? WHEN is this happening? WHAT do they want? 

  • It is easy to lose concentration for minute,  and have no idea what the conversation is about. If you miss part of a conversation, accept that you will not be able to answer some questions. Move on to the next conversation right away. If you try to stay with the information you missed, you will not hear or understand the next conversation because you were too busy worrying about  the old one. It's okay to miss out on a few questions because your mind wandered. Even native speakers do that. 

  • Try to guess what the questions will be from the answers. If you are given both the questions and the possible answers while you listen, read them carefully. Should you be listening for a when? a where? a who? a what is the topic of this conversation question? Listen for the answers to the questions, not every word in the conversation. 
  • You are not superman, or superwoman, nor are you a computer. You cannot remember everything that someone says - especially in a second language. Write key words on the extra paper you have. Those key words can help you answer questions. Particularly in longer conversations, news and mini lectures.   Again, even native speakers have to do this, or they will not remember information. This is a basic listening strategy that native speakers use every day - especially on the telephone.

  • Nearly right is not the same thing as right. Examiners often give information that sounds correct, but is wrong in some small way. It could be two words that sound similar, for example Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes they do this with modals, or adverbs. For example in the conversation, someone says, "She may be late"  and one of the answers in the question is "she will be late." This is not an exact match, so it would be the wrong answer. It has to be a 100% the right answer.
  • Examiners will often place a word directly from the passage in a wrong answer and use a synonym in the correct answer. Check the meaning and do not rely on word recognition to get the right answer. The tester wants to know if you understood, not if you can recognize a word. 

I hope these test taking tips are helpful  
I will discuss reading tests in another post  


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  1. I was very impressed by your Blog, a terrific resource for students, obviously a lot of effort went into it. I'm sure instructors will also find it useful, and for those of us non-bloggers, inspiring!

    I loved the photo of your family, and the great grafix you chose - a very inviting site. Your concern for your students is obvious - I hope they appreciate you.

    Looking forward to future blogs,
    TJL - friend and colleague.

    PS - maybe you could give me a few tips on setting up a blog site - let's go for coffee soon. T

  2. your tips were very useful for me.


    1. I'm glad they were helpful. I hope a lot of the material on the blog is useful for you.



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