How to slay those Chemistry MCQs

Do you (or your child) consider multiple choice exams easier than written exams? At least the correct answer is guaranteed to be one of the possible options, right? “I have a 25% chance of getting it correct!”

Yet, many students struggle to find that ONE correct answer. Here are some possible reasons:

  1. They misread the question in their rush to complete the paper

  2. They select a response just because they have ‘memorised’ that bit of information, without thinking about how it relates to the question

  3. Not linking the relevant concept to the question

How to overcome these pitfalls? Read on for our three tips to help you collect as many marks as possible in the MCQ exam.

TIP #1
When tackling multiple choice questions, it is important to READ the question carefully.

Annotation is important.

  • Identify the subject area (e.g. Preparation of salts; Separation Techniques)

  • Identify key words. Circle, highlight or underline key words, such as “all,” “always,” “never,” “none,” “not,” “few,” “many,” some,” and “sometimes.”

  • Identify what is being asked. What is the intent of the question?

It seems silly to be annotating your paper like some noob, but it’s totally worth it. Investing those few seconds will help you focus on what the question requires, and you’ll be able to narrow down THE answer much more quickly than other students.

TIP #2
When you encounter a true statement, check that it is the correct answer to the question.

When reading the options to select the correct answer, it’s good to bear in mind the following:

  • Avoid selecting a response just because you remember learning the information. A true statement in its own right may not be the correct answer to the question.

    e.g. Fig. 1

In Fig. 1, Option B is a true statement. Across the period, there is an increase in the number of electrons. However, it is not the answer to the question. It is the increase in the number of valence electrons that causes the trend from metallic to non-metallic elements across the period. Thus, the correct answer to the question is Option D.

  • Do not disregard an option because it seems too obvious or simple an answer. In other words, do not overthink!

  • Get rid of distractors in the question. Cross out the options you know that are obviously wrong.

TIP #3
Link relevant concepts to the question

  • When analyzing graph or table, write down some key concepts to help.

Catalyst lowers the activation energy but it doesn’t change the level of energy of reactants and products. Thus answer is Option B.

And there you have it! Three tips to help you ace Chemistry MCQs. Try these tips for Physics too. Many of these principles can be applied to other subjects.

Remember that Rome is not built in a day. Preparation before the multiple choice exams is crucial. It is good to have a mind map or one page summary of each topic which highlights key concepts learnt. Being able to compare, contrast and interpret the concepts learnt will help one better analyse and apply the concepts. Practising past year multiple choice questions will enable you to build up your confidence.

Enjoy the process of learning Science – especially Chemistry! Keep exploring!

Ms. Tan Yiming
Chemistry Online Tutor
learnMOJO

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