How to approach multiple-choice questions

Hi everyone, welcome back to this week's blog! Today I will focus on the first thing you'll come across on the PDHPE HSC paper, multiple-choice questions.


How to approach multiple-choice questions


During the HSC exam, my preference was to read the multiple-choice questions during reading time and then answer them straight away. It may sound trivial, but it is crucial to read the question multiple times! When you think you understand what the question is asking you, re-read it just in case. I've lost count of the number of times I've made silly errors in multiple-choice just because I missed out on one important word. It's vital that you come up with a system to answer multiple-choice questions that best suits you. I had a 4-part system for every multiple-choice question that helped me answer the questions and help make educated guesses for questions that I wasn't 100% sure about.


Step 1: After reading (and re-reading) all the questions, answer all questions that come "easily".


Step 2: Eliminate as many options as possible for the questions you aren't 100% sure with. These are the responses that you know aren't true, so it can help narrow down your potential answers from 4 to 3 or 2, minimising the chance of error.


Step 3: Figure out the "best" answer from the rest of the options. HSC multiple-choice questions aren't easy, and a lot of the time, multiple answers could be argued to be correct; however, there may be a 'more correct' answer.


Step 4: If you have no idea, take an educated guess, flag the question and move on. There is no point in spending 10 minutes on a 1-mark question. Put a tiny dot next to the questions that you aren't entirely sure about, so you can quickly go back to these questions if you have time in the end.


Just whatever you do, never ever leave a question blank! Even if you are unsure, you still may get a mark, especially if you firstly narrow down the potential options.


Practice makes perfect


Just like every skill, you can refine and practice your multiple-choice technique. In your PDHPE study block, I would recommend starting your study session with 20 multiple choice questions and then finishing with 20 multiple choice questions, just to keep yourself on your toes. NESA has an online bank of multiple-choice questions (https://quiz.nesa.nsw.edu.au/ ), so you can just select an amount you want to do, and away you go! To further elevate your multiple-choice skills, you can extend your thinking by asking the following questions after every multiple-choice question you complete:


1. Why did you eliminate a particular answer?

2. What is the correct answer, and why?


If you mentally or physically write the answer to these questions, it is a great way to revise content and ensure you know how you got to a particular answer and that it wasn't just luck. It's also vital that you keep a list of the questions you may have got wrong. This could be in a word document or at the back of a notebook, but each time you get a question wrong, pop it into the book and then practice these questions until you know why the correct answer is the right answer.


Try and find a range of multiple-choice questions from different sources. Whilst it's okay to repeat the same multiple-choice questions 1 or 2 times when you start going over the same questions over and over again, you may just end up memorising whether the answer is 'A, B, C or D' without actually knowing why.


Graph Questions

In every HSC exam, there are about 1 or 2 graph questions, which requires you to apply your own knowledge to understand the information given to you in the graph. For these questions, my advice to you is to think back to the syllabus! So even if you've never seen a particular graph before, all the knowledge you need to answer these questions is hidden in the syllabus.


Putting yourself first

First up, what you all are doing is incredible! You have spent over a year preparing for the 'end goal' of the HSC in a global pandemic. In the weeks leading up to the HSC, it is easy to just try and go all out studying, but it's essential to prioritise your own mental and physical wellbeing and health. For the following blogs in the series, I will share some tips I used (and still use today with uni) to help take some time away from studying.


Don't feel guilty for having a break. Studying for 24 hours a day is impossible (not that that I've tried it!) When you no longer have the structure of school classes and breaks, it is easy to feel like you must then study all day whenever you can, but that is not the case. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should or that it would benefit your learning. Schedule in some proper breaks, and not just 5 minutes for lunch. Scheduling in breaks where you get away from your study space will make you more productive and efficient when you’re actually studying. It is easy to get bored and feel unmotivated if you're just studying with no structure.


Also, if you study all day, it doesn't mean you have to then study all night! Decide a time which is your "switch off time". It could be after you eat dinner, for example. You may choose to stop studying completely after this time and do something enjoyable, or you could turn down the heat on the study and just do tasks that require less brain power so you can switch off for the night, for example, some quick multiple-choice questions. Then go get some sleep; 8-9 hours is ideal to ensure you have maximum retention of what you've studied the previous day.


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