7 Strategies for Success on Multiple Choice Exams

In the past two posts, I described how law school multiple choice questions are different than those that appear on undergraduate or high school exams, and we’ve explored some of the common obstacles to success on law school multiple choice exams. As I’ve already mentioned, the most important key to success in law school multiple choice exams is preparation. Today, I want to talk about some additional strategies that can help you answer law school multiple choice questions.

(1) Watch your speed: I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth emphasizing again. Take your time as you go through the multiple choice exams. It is easy to feel rushed because time passes so quickly during law school exams. But when students rush, they often choose the wrong answer because they missed a key word and not because they didn’t know the material.

(2) Allocate your time: Allot an equal amount of each time for each question, and stick to that schedule. You should divide your time based upon how much each part of the exam is worth. If you have a 3-hour exam, and the multiple choice section is worth 1/3 of the total points on that exam, then set aside one hour for the multiple choice. If there are 30 multiple choice questions in that section, then you should take approximately 2 minutes for each question. Don’t take time away from the multiple choice when the point distribution signals how much time you should spend on that section.

(3) Don’t add to the question: Ask yourself, what’s on the page? Don’t complete the definition or argument in your mind and conclude that it is correct. This especially becomes a problem when you’ve studied a topic extensively and know it so well that you can define every key term. Be sure that everything is on the page, and that you are not completing things in your head.

On a related note, assume nothing in addition to what has been established or given. Don’t assume the existence of any facts or outcomes. Your professor may be testing whether you recognize that an essential fact is missing!

(4) Ignore red herrings: There are two kinds of facts in multiple choice questions: important facts, and facts that are there to distract you. Make conscious choices about which facts are essential to the question, and don’t let those red herrings lead you off track.

(5) Answer all questions: This may seem obvious, but an additional key to success on multiple choice exams is to answer all questions. Specifically, skipping a question creates the possibility that your remaining answers will be out of order. Answer each of the questions in order, and mark and come back to questions you were not sure of if you have time.

On this same theme, if you begin to run out of time, make sure you leave no answers blank. You will not be penalized if you get the answer wrong, but you have no chance of getting the question right if you don’t put an answer down. If you’re running close on time, make sure that you save enough time to fill in any remaining answers.

(6) Eliminate wrong answers: In law school, you get to the best answer by eliminating answers which can’t be correct. Make sure that you eliminate answers that don’t resolve the issue or focus on a different issue. You should also eliminate answers that apply the wrong legal reasoning, mischaracterize the facts, or misstate the law. In order to be correct, an answer must be correct in every respect.

(7) Make smart guesses: Finally, when you can’t decide what the best answer is, make sure that you make an intelligent guess. Don’t guess until you’ve eliminated any wrong answers that you can identify. Be careful not to overcomplicate the question–the issue that jumps out at you is likely the issue that the correct response addresses. You should also be careful about answers that include absolutes – as you’ve already learned in law school, there are few things in the law that are absolute. That’s one of the reasons why the most common phrase in law school is “It depends.” Words like “must,” “always,” and “never” often (but not always) indicate an incorrect answer.


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Filed under General, Law School Exams, Study Tips

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