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Can’t Choose Between 2 Good Options on the Exam?

Woman looking off into distance holding eyeglasses behind a laptop computer.

You know what it’s like. You’re taking a multiple choice exam; you see the question and four options. But doggone it, you see two options that you think might be the correct response. How can you choose between good options?

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Understand how multiple choice (MC) test items are constructed

Don’t skip this step. Invest 3 minutes of your time by looking at my short post on the anatomy of an exam item. Understanding the basic structure of MC test items will help you in the long run, but right now, it will help you to understand what I’m talking about.

Look carefully at the stem of the item. There’s generally a set-up followed by a question. It goes somewhat like this:

  • This is the age of the baby (or the pregnancy status of the mother)
  • This is what’s going on
  • What will you do about it?

Okay, so that’s not exact, but looking at it from that standpoint will help you to choose between good options.

Now, VERY carefully re-read the question that immediately precedes the options. Ask yourself:

  • Age: Would age of the baby (or the point in pregnancy) change what would be the right answer?
  • Ethics: Would one of those options be outside of the Scope of Practice for the IBCLC?
  • Global perspective:  Would one option better reflect a global standard (not just my limited experience?)
  • True, but … Sometimes an option is a true statement, but it doesn’t answer the question.

Think backward to choose between good options

Instead of thinking about why one option is more “right,” think about what makes the other option(s) more “wrong.” That has bailed me out of many scrapes!

Avoid the 10 mistakes that most people make

I strongly encourage you to read my post that points out the 10 mistakes that most people make. You can’t avoid those mistakes if you aren’t aware of them.

Learn how to deal with application-level test items

If you can’t deal with application-level test items, you’re sunk. Plain and simple.

The IBCLC exam is a comprehensive, career-critical exam. It has been constructed by a board of examiners. That’s the “B” and the “E” in IBLCE. Typically, independent boards construct items that require the test-taker to do much more than straight recall (like an end-of-course test.)

Keep this mind: I’ve had a week-long training course on how to write multiple choice items. And I was selected to be on the panel twice. Therefore, I can tell you with absolute certainty that one of the cardinal rules of a good multiple choice item is that all the options must be plausible. That is, none of the options are “dumb” or obviously wrong.

So, expect to face an exam where it will take some smarts and some test-taking savvy to choose between good options.

Need help?

Need help with application-level items? Terrific. Read my post on secrets to getting the right answer on application-level questions.

Need to try your hand at application-level tests? I’ve got you covered. Buy practice exams to get a sense of what the exam will be like. These timed practice exams allow you to practice taking the exam in a similar setting to the real thing. When finished, you get a computerized analysis of your strengths and weaknesses by discipline and chronological area so you know just how to focus your precious study time. Each exam can be reset and the questions can be scrambled so you can take it over and over again until you are ready for the real thing.

When you need to choose between good options, it’s important to slow down, and sometimes it’s easier to eliminate the wrong answers rather than selecting the right answer right off the bat.

What will you do to help you choose between good answers? Let me know in the comments below!

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