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The Best Set Of Strategies For Answering Essay Questions Is

General Tips

Before you Begin

  1. Preview the test before you answer anything. This gets you thinking about the material. Make sure to note the point value of each question. This will give you some ideas on budgeting your time.
  2. Quickly calculate how much time you should allow for each section according to the point value. (You don't want to spend 30 minutes on an essay question that counts only 5 points.)
  3. Do a mind dump. Using what you saw in the preview, make notes of anything you think you might forget. Write down things that you used in learning the material that might help you remember. Outline your answers to discussion questions.

Taking a Test

  1. Read the directions. (Can more than one answer be correct? Are you penalized for guessing? etc.) Never assume that you know what the directions say.
  2. Answer the easy questions first. This will give you the confidence and momentum to get through the rest of the test. You are sure these answers are correct. Try not to spend too much time on one question.
  3. Go back to the difficult questions. While looking over the test and doing the easy questions, your subconscious mind will have been working on the answers to the hardest ones. Also, later items on the test might give you useful or needed information for earlier items.
  4. Answer all questions (unless you are penalized for wrong answers).
  5. Ask the instructor to explain any items that are not clear. Do not ask for the answer, but phrase your question in a way that shows the instructor that you have the information but are not sure what the question is asking for.
  6. Try to answer the questions from the instructor's point of view. Try to remember what the instructor emphasized and felt was important.
  7. Use the margin to help you figure out if the question does not seem clear or if the answer seems ambiguous.
  8. Circle key words in difficult questions. This will force you to focus on the central point.
  9. Express difficult questions in your own words. Rephrasing can make it clear to you, but be sure you don't change the meaning of the question.
  10. Use all of the time allotted for the test. If you have extra time, cover up your answers and actually rework the question.

Essay Exams

Guidelines for taking an essay exam

  1. Make sure you are ready for the test both mentally and physically.
  2. Listen carefully to the final instructions of the teacher. (How much time do you have to complete the test? Do all the questions count equally? Are there any corrections, changes, or additions to the test?)
  3. Begin the test immediately and watch the time carefully. Don't spend too much time answering one question that you run out of time before answering the others.
  4. Read all the essay questions carefully, paying special attention to the key words.
  5. Ask the teacher to clarify any question you may not understand.
  6. Rephrase the question into the central idea for your essay answer.
  7. Think before you write. Jot down all the important information and work it into a brief outline. Do this on the back of the test sheet or on a piece of scrap paper.
  8. Use a logical pattern of organization and a strong topic sentence for each paragraph.
  9. Write concisely without using abbreviations or nonstandard language.
  10. Emphasize those areas of the subject you are most sure of.
  11. Keep your test paper neat with reasonable margins. Neatness is always important; readability is a must, especially on an exam.
  12. Revise and proofread as carefully and completely as time will permit.

Planning and writing the essay test question

It is important to understand what the teacher is asking for in an essay question. Too many students make the error of thinking the best way to answer an essay question is to write down everything and anything about the topic as fast as they can. No time is taken to think about the essay test question or to organize an appropriate answer.

The first step in correctly handling an essay test question is to read the question several times until you are sure you know what the teacher is asking. As you read, you must pay special attention to the key words found in every essay question. Your ability to understand and respond to these key words is a basic skill necessary to handling the essay question. Below are some steps for writing a good essay.

  • Read the question several times or until you clearly understand what is being asked for. (Pay specific attention to the "key word" being used in the question.)
  • Rephrase the question into a statement, which can serve as the thesis statement for your essay answer or the topic sentence for a one-paragraph answer. Note: It often works well to keep the key words in your thesis statement.
  • Outline the main points you plan to cover in your answer. Time will probably not allow you to include all supporting details in your outline. (Using a topic outline rather than a sentence outline will also save time.)
  • Write your essay. Your opening sentence will be your thesis statement (the reworded question). Follow this with any background information, which is necessary for a complete understanding of your answer.

Important Points to Remember

  • Planning
    • A few minutes of careful planning are crucial to a good essay answer.
    • Budget your time for planning, writing, and editing.
    • Read the question carefully; be sure you understand what the question is asking you to do, and what all parts of the answer should be.
    • Make notes, then organize them and check to see that your outline contains everything it should.
  • Writing
    • The most important thing in writing the essay is to stay on track and still explain your points adequately. Keep in mind any special instructions your instructor gave.
    • Keep introductions and conclusions short.
    • Say what your are going to say in the introduction, then say it in the body, restate what you have just said in your conclusion.
    • Stick to your outline.
    • Note any new ideas in the margin; don't just stick them in when you think of them.
    • Try not to start over if you get off track; just get back to your outline.
    • Don't save important points for conclusion.
    • If you can save time, reading your essay over can help greatly.
    • Ask yourself:
      1. Do I need to reread the question?
      2. Does it answer the question?
      3. Are any points left out?
      4. Are there words or phrases that you skipped writing fast?
      5. Did you spell important words (relevant to the subject) correctly?

Math & Science

Special Techniques for Math and Science Tests

  1. Translate problems in English. Putting problems into words aids your understanding. When you study equations and formulas, put those into words too. The words help you see a variety of applications for each formula.
  2. Perform opposite operations. If a problem involves multiplication, check your work by dividing; add, subtract; factor, multiply; square root, square; differentiate, integrate.
  3. Use time drills. Practice working problems fast. Time yourself. Exchange problems with a friend and time each other. You can also do this in a study group.
  4. Analyze before you compute. Set up the problem before you begin to solve it. When a problem is worth a lot of points, read it twice, slowly. Analyze it carefully. When you take time to analyze a problem you can often see ways to take computational shortcuts.
  5. Make a picture. Draw a clear picture or a diagram if you are stuck. Sometimes a visual representation will clear a blocked mind.
  6. Estimate first. Estimation is a good way to double-check your work. Doing this first can help you notice if your computations go awry, and then you can correct the error quickly.
  7. Check your work systematically. When you check your work, ask yourself: Did I read the problem correctly? Did I use the correct formula or equation? Is my arithmetic correct? Is my answer in the proper form? Avoid the temptation to change an answer in the last few minutes-unless you're sure the answer is wrong. In the last-minute rush to finish the test, it's easier to choose the wrong answer.
  8. Review formulas. Right before the test, review any formulas you'll need to use. Then write them on the margin of the test or on the back of the test paper.

Taking Math and Science Exams

  1. Do the easy ones first.
  2. Read the problem.
    • Determine exactly what you are required to find.
    • What does the answer look like? - is it a speed? A temperature? An energy?
  3. Estimate the answer before you start to work on the problem.
    • It helps to have a rough idea of the size of the answer.
  4. Include the units with all answers and round them to the proper place.
  5. Try to see the exam problem as another example of a problem you have already solved or studied.
    • Your instructor will have worked problems in class and you may recall worked examples in your text.
  6. In preparing for problem exams it is important that you work many problems.
    • For most students the course grade or exam grade is directly proportional to the number of problems they do.
    • Don't spend all your time on a few very difficult problems. Rather, do many of the easier ones until you are certain of your ability.
  7. If the exam will require you to perform mathematical proofs or derivations, be certain that you know which proofs may be required.
    • Drill yourself on these before the test.
    • Repeat each proof step-by-step until you remember each step and can quickly outline the proof.
  8. See your instructor for pre-exam help when you need it, but come prepared with a list of specific questions.
    • Show him/her your attempts at solving the problem and he/she will be more willing to help.
  9. Go over every test after you take it.
    • Learn how to do the problems you missed.
    • Science and math build an inverted pyramid of ideas. Anything you do not understand now will return to haunt you later in the course.

Taking Math Exams

  1. Be prepared at exam and on time.
  2. Write down any formulas you'll need to remember.
  3. Read instructions carefully.
  4. Skim test and do those questions you know immediately.
  5. Pace yourself so you have time to consider all questions.
  6. Do problems you can do but take more time.
  7. Go back and work on hard problems.
    • Be systematic
    • Find relevant information
    • Break into smaller parts
    • Don't panic
    • Don't write a novel
  8. If you have no idea where to start.
    • Re-read question
    • Check to see if similar to any other problems
    • Re-read formulas
    • List what is known, what you need to find, and what is needed to find the answer.
  9. Allow time to check problems
  10. Look out for stupid errors.

After Receiving the Test

  1. Immediately look up questions that caused problems.
  2. Go over test and correct missed problems.
  3. Check with instructor if you can not figure out why the problem was wrong.

Taking Science Exams

  • Read all test directions carefully and survey the entire test before answering any questions.
  • Budget your time so you will be able to complete the entire test.
  • Read the questions carefully and answer those you're sure of first. If there's no penalty for wrong answers, guess.
  • Try to save time to review your answers before submitting your test.

True & False

  1. The basic idea behind a true-false question is simple: It consists of a single statement; your job is to decide whether it's true. What makes the choice more difficult is that to be true, a statement must be 100 percent true!
  2. Watch for those little words that can turn an otherwise true statement into one that is false, or vice versa. Researchers have found that statements containing certain words, such as the following, are generally false: All, Only, Always, Because. Statements containing certain other words, such as the following, are generally true: None, Generally, Usually.
  3. If you don't know an answer, always guess-unless the scoring formula is "rights minus wrongs." If that's the case, never guess.
  4. In true-false tests, your first hunch is usually correct. Don't change an answer unless you are very sure of the change.
  5. If any part of the statement is false, the whole statement is false.


  • You must connect items on one list with items on another generally by placing a number or letter identifying words on one list beside those on another.
  • The best way to approach matching questions of this kind is to choose one of the columns and match as many items as you can with those in the other column. You can start with either column, but you can have more success if you start with the column providing the most information.
  • Work with only one column at a time. Match each item in that column against all items in the second column until you find a proper match, marking through matches about which you are certain, so that it will be easier to match out the rest about which you are unsure. Cross out the words you have used as you go along to avoid confusion.

Multiple Choice

  • Anticipate the answer before you look at the choices. Physically cover the answers with your scantron sheet to see if your can answer the question first.
  • Read over all of your options.
  • Eliminate highly implausible answers.
  • Some examiners give away answers in their tests. By answering one question, you may be able to realize the answer to another question.
  • If you must guess, keep in mind the following tips for multiple choice tests:
    • Sometimes lengthy or highly specific answers will be the correct answer.
    • Be aware of words like "always," "never," "only," "must," and "completely." These are usually the wrong answers since there are many exceptions to rules. These are extreme words that are more than likely to be the wrong choice.
  • Answer all questions in order without skipping or jumping around. Identify doubtful answers by marking in the margin and recheck these as time permits after all questions have been answered.
  • Do not linger too long on any one question. Mark your best guess and move on, returning later if you have sufficient time.
  • Reread all questions containing negative wording such as "not" or "least." Be especially alert for the use of double or even triple negatives within a sentence, as these must be read very carefully to assure full understanding.
  • Check for qualifying words such as "all-most-some-none," "always-usually-seldom-never," "best-worst," or "smallest-largest." When you see one of these qualifiers, test for truth by substituting the other members of the series. IF your substitution makes a better statement, the question is false; if your substitution does not make a better statement, the question is true.
  • Watch for modifying or limiting phrases inserted into the true/false questions. Instructors often use inserted names, dates, places, or other details to make a statement inaccurate.
  • Be alert for multiple ideas or concepts within the same true/false statements. All parts of the statement must be true or the entire statement is false.
  • Be alert for grammatical inconsistencies between the question stem and the answer choices on multiple-choice questions. A choice is almost always wrong if it and the stem do not make a grammatically correct sentence.
  • Be cautious about changing your answer to a true/false or multiple-choice question without a good reason. Your first "guess" is more likely to be correct than are subsequent "guesses," so be sure to have a sound reason for changing your answer.
  • Apply the same approach to answering both true/false and multiple-choice questions. The same techniques will work equally well for both, since multiple-choice questions are basically true/false questions arranged in groups.

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A Guide to University Learning

Learning How to Take an Exam:

Student Guide
University Exams
On Test Day
Test Taking Strategies
Look Over Entire Test
Create a Time Budget
Proceed from Easy to Hard
Outline Essay Questions
Check Your Work
Multiple Choice Questions
Is there a formula?
Systematic Approach
Difficult Questions
Course Outline Top Ten Takeaways
Practice Activity:
Sample Quiz
Quiz Answers

Student Guide:

Instructors design exams to test whether or not you've learned the material, which they think is important, and which you should have learned by the time you finish the course. This may seem obvious, but there's an important point here. Tests are designed, and their design is very intentional. This means that if you identify the material that instructors feel is important and make good, educated guesses about how they will assess it, you'll never be surprised by a well-designed test. If you're not surprised by the test questions and have studied the material, chances are you'll be successful. So how do you identify important material and make educated guesses about test questions? The simple answer is that you try to think like your instructor. While this may seem difficult, instructors give you a lot of hints and clues during the course, starting with the course outline and continuing through your textbook readings and lectures.


University Exams

New students often find university exams to be rather different from the sorts of exams they've encountered previously.

University exam questions often require you to:

  • Go beyond material that was covered explicitly in the textbook and lecture
  • Think about the relationships between key concepts and ideas
  • Link together material from the text with material from the lecture and think about the relationship of one to the other
  • Cover multiple pieces of information at once to test your knowledge of course material
  • Apply the theoretical concepts covered in the text and lecture to new situations

Instructors want to ensure that you've learned more than just the facts. They want you to understand the relationships between facts and to be able to demonstrate in exams how those facts and relationships integrate with other content. Pay close attention to examples, scenarios and stories in lectures and texts because often these are meant to highlight or emphasize important relationships and concepts.


  • Pay close attention to any examples or sample questions raised in lectures, because chances are your instructor is raising them for a good reason
  • Practise doing questions similar to the examples or sample questions, because it's likely the concept or connection is important and will show up on the exam
  • Don't just redo the examples you were given in class
  • Try creating concept maps to emphasize relationships
  • With classmates formulate sample test questions that apply the class material to new scenarios


On Test Day

On test day, you may find the following tips helpful.

  • Wake up early, but ensure you try to get a good night’s sleep
  • Most students have some degree of text anxiety. This is normal regardless of how much you have studied. Anxiety may be lessened if you did some good studying and feel prepared
  • Consult your list of equipment needed for the test such as pens, pencils, calculators, and equations. Take all that is required with you the day of the test
    • Often during an exam students have to leave their backpacks in another spot, so ensure your equipment is in a clear plastic bag or can be easily carried to your seat
    • Bring a water bottle with you so you can keep hydrated during the exam
  • Dress comfortably for the exam. Wearing layers helps you to deal with temperature variations.
  • Try to get to class/exam area a few minutes early so you can get settled into your seat and do a few relaxation techniques (such as taking a few deep breaths)
  • If you have students around you who are panicking and talking about the test, keep some distance and simply walk around a bit to help clear your mind
  • Turn off your cell phone and any other electronic items that will disturb others
  • A cool, calm and collected head is the biggest asset you can draw on while writing an exam. You can think your way through difficult questions and also avoid the costly little mistakes we all make when we rush through a test
    • Breathe in and out slowly
    • Think positive thoughts
    • Focus on the test and not the students around you


Test Taking Strategies

Look Over Entire Test

  • Once you receive the test, the single most important thing you need to do is carefully listen to the instructor’s verbal directions
  • Thoroughly read all the test instructions
  • Before you begin responding to the questions, write down important formulas, processes and keywords in a margin so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them when you get to the questions (this is often called a ‘brain dump’)
  • Skim through the entire test first
  • Some tests have multiple parts, some with optional and mandatory questions, and you want to make sure you completely understand what you need to accomplish before you jump into answering the questions
  • Answers to some questions are often contained in others. Each question includes information which may help you answer other questions. The easiest way to take advantage of this is to skim through the test first and see where potential information may be

Create a Time Budget

  • At any given point during an exam, you should know the maximum number of minutes you have to spend on the current question or section before moving onto the next. Set strict time limits on each question to prevent you from running out of time
  • Build a time budget by taking the time allotted for the exam and subtracting 10 minutes. Next, divide this amount by the number of questions or sections. The result is how long you have to spend on each section
    • You want a few extra minutes to double check your answers when you are finished or go back and add more insights to questions on which you were rushed
    • For an exam with a small number of questions, mark right on the test pages the time when you should begin and finish each one. For an exam with many questions, divide the exam into roughly equal sections, then jot down the time you should begin and end each section. These recorded times should help you keep organized
    • You can also divide the time available by the number of marks each question is worth. Only give each question the time it warrants and then move on to the next

Proceed from Easy to Hard

  • Most students do not answer an exam in the order the questions are given. Answer the easiest questions first or those questions that you immediately can answer
  • Don’t worry if you skip all over the exam; in most cases the order is irrelevant
  • Advantages:
    • Focuses your energy on the questions you know the most about, ensuring you get maximum points on these
    • Gives you a better chance of getting through the more difficult questions
    • Helps stimulate your mind and prepares you for answering the harder questions
    • Reduces panic when you get to the harder questions


Outline Essay Questions

  • When you get to an essay question, do not just start writing and see what happens. This approach will lead to a very rambling answer that makes no sense! First, jot down a quick outline of what you think your answer will entail. It may seem like a waste of time, but 2 to 3 minutes doing this could result in a well-written answer
  • Read each question carefully
    • Note and underline key words and concepts
    • Pay special attention to the type of question (e.g., analyze, compare, or evaluate). Your response will vary based on the type of question
  • Use the margin of the exam to jot down all the points you can recall that are relevant to the question.
    • Record only a few words for each point to save time and space
    • Write the words that come to your mind right away
  • Go back to the question and check the words that you underlined
    • Make sure your points adequately address the question
    • Number these points in the order that you want to present them. This will help with a quick organization of the essay
  • Begin writing your essay
  • Pay attention to the time limits to ensure you have enough time to write about each point
  • Go back and re-read the essay checking for clear writing and proper spelling and grammar

Check Your Work

  • If you have extra time at the end of the exam, go back and check your work. You will be surprised how many times this final review turns up a mistake in a problem or an important concept that you forgot to mention in the essay
  • If you still have time after your first round of review is over, then go through and check again, perhaps checking from back to front. You may notice new mistakes
  • It's tempting to relax after finishing your exam and to hand it in early in front of your peers, but this is not a good thing to do. Double and triple check your work - it will be worth it


Multiple Choice Questions

Is there a formula?

Some students (and instructors) claim that there is a formula to create most multiple choice questions. This formula dictates that there is:

  • One answer which is obviously wrong
  • One which is tricky and included simply to trap you if you misread the question
  • Two which are very similar, one of which is the correct one
  • Often an 'All of the above' or 'None of the above' thrown in to make a total of five

While this may be true in some circumstances, it's certainly not true everywhere. Making this sort of assumption is likely to lead to mistakes and wrong answers. Likewise, 'When in doubt, pick C' may be a comforting rule, but your instructors have heard this rule too, and many will try to distribute correct answers fairly equally among all choices. So, if you have to guess the answer to a particular question, put your trust in your own knowledge and reason, not in some magic formula or rule, and make a truly educated guess.

Systematic Approach

Multiple choice questions come in various formats from straight definitions to analogies to problem solving. Among a selection of responses, there’s one correct (best/true) answer, and it's your job to find it! Careless mistakes are often made when students rush through the "stem," or first part of the question, and miss important information. Try this approach to make sure you read each question thoroughly.

  • Cover up the answers before you read the question (called the stem)
  • Read the stem carefully, perhaps several times
  • Process the stem
    • Underline key words with your pencil/pen
    • Translate the question into your own words
  • Predict an answer
  • Uncover the alternatives and read all of them carefully, even if the first choice seems correct
    • Watch for small but important words, called modifiers such as always, only, most, all, never, completely, best, worst, smallest, largest etc. which may help in answering the question
    • Be wary of ‘multiple response’ answers “All of the Above”, “None of the Above” or some combination of choices. You’ll need to treat each of these responses as true/false situations and answer accordingly
    • In general, don’t choose responses that include words you don’t know or never have seen
  • Identify the best response

This is just one approach, but it is a good way to systematically work through multiple choice questions, especially when an entire exam may be composed of them!


Difficult Questions

If you've followed the steps in the previous section and you're still not sure of an answer, it's tempting to keep re-reading and re-working the question until you select one. The language of multiple choice questions can sometimes lead to confusion about what the question is really asking. However, you may be wasting valuable time as you "worry through" these questions.

If you're unsure of an answer, you have 2 choices:

  • Skip the question and come back to it later, or
  • Attempt to decode the question with a bit more detail 
  • Trying the following techniques may help:
    • Pay attention to absolute terms, such as 'never', 'always' or 'none'. They often (but not always) indicate that the statement is false
    • Pay attention to the use of negatives, such as 'not', 'unless' or 'none'
    • Look for information that might distract you from the real purpose of the question
    • Rephrase a stem in your own words; for example, try changing a question to a statement. Be careful, however, not to lose sight of the original meaning of the stem
    • Treat each alternative as a true–false statement, and search for the one true statement amid the answers
    • If you're debating between two similar answers, try identifying which is the worse answer, rather than which is the better one
    • If you have run out of time, if you still don't know the answer, and if there is no penalty for wrong answers – guess

In general, when reviewing answers, you should only change an answer if you have a specific reason for doing so (for example, you remembered a new piece of information). Even if you're not entirely sure that your answer is correct, it's usually better to keep it than to switch to another answer at the last minute.

Keep in mind that these techniques will not work for all questions, and that they can be time-consuming. If some of these techniques seem helpful, make sure you familiarize yourself with them in a practice exam well before the midterm or exam.


Course Outline Top Ten Takeaways

  1. University exams often require you to go beyond material covered in the lectures and textbook and cause you to think about relationships between many concepts
  2. Get enough sleep, have all your materials ready, dress comfortably, avoid panicky students, and try to stay calm on test day
  3. Look over the entire test first to give you an idea of what types of questions you will be answering
  4. Write down any formulas, processes, and keywords in the margins as soon as you get the test
  5. Create a time budget by taking the total time you have and dividing it up by sections or questions
  6. Start with easy questions and then work on the harder ones
  7. For essay questions, ensure you take a few minutes to plan out what you are going to write
  8. Spend 10 minutes proofreading the exam at the end
  9. Multiple choice questions are not devised with a specific formula every time. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘picking C when in doubt’ or other rules of thumb. You need to read each choice and pick the correct answer
  10. For multiple choice questions, try covering up the choices before reading the question. Predict your own answer before you read the choices


Practice Activity:

The purpose of this activity is to practice your test taking skills by writing a multiple choice quiz. The quiz will test your understanding of the psychology content from the textbook reading and the lecture in the previous sections.

The quiz has 10 questions and is intended to be 7 minutes long. A ratio of 1.5 questions per minute is often used for multiple choice exams. Try to stick to the time limit as it is important to see how far you can get in the time allowed. If you do not finish in the time allowed, make a note of how far you got, and then try to finish the rest of the test. This will give you a chance to try every question.


  • Have a piece of paper in front of you so that you can record your answers
  • Have a clock nearby so that you can determine when your 7 minutes for the quiz starts and ends
  • Using your understanding of the Psychology content read and answer each question. Try to apply the test taking strategies discussed in the guide
  • A tip is provided below each question to provide suggestions on things to look for when determining the correct answer
  • When you are finished the quiz, go to the Answers section, located directly below the quiz to determine your score out of 10


Sample Quiz

  1. Which of the following is incorrect?
  • A) The range of a data set is never equal to the variance of the set
  • B) Standard deviation is the average of the squared deviations from the mean
  • C) The variance of a data set is never equal to the standard deviation
  • D) Range and standard deviation are both useful pieces of information
  • E) None of the above

The important word in this question is ‘incorrect’. Read each choice one at a time. Consider if the choice is true or false. The word ‘never’ appears in two of the statements (a and c). ‘Never’ is a word that may help you in determining if the choice is true or false.

  1. Which of the following is not a descriptive statistic?
  • A) The median height of any ten of your classmates
  • B) The mean IQ of all Canadian males
  • C) The mode weight of half the shipping traffic in the Suez Canal
  • D) The standard deviation of the heights of any ten of your classmates
  • E) The mean time it took 73 people to finish the Boston Marathon

The important word in this question is “not”. Underline this word on a test. There are 5 possible choices and all are roughly equal in length and plausible. Read each statement and determine if it is true or false. Another thing to remember is that you are looking for statements that could be termed ‘a descriptive statistic’ - look for a situation that would be used for this term.

  1. The standard deviation of a normal distribution is always equal to:
  • A) The average of the squared deviations from the mode
  • B) The difference between Z scores of 1 and -1
  • C) The median score minus Z at -1
  • D) Both A and B
  • E) Both A and C

This is a question that has 3 written choices and 2 choices that are a combination of the first three. The question is a completion statement that has two key words “always equal”. Read each choice one at a time and consider if it would be “always equal” to the standard deviation of the normal distribution. If you find only 1 of the first three choices could be possible, then you can rule out d) and e). If you find 2 of the first three choices to be possible, consider d) and e) as other possible answers.

  1. In a normal distribution:
  • A) The mean is equal to the mode
  • B) The mode is equal to the median
  • C) 68% of scores fall within 1 standard deviation of the mode
  • D) Both A and B
  • E) All of the above

This question just begins with the words “In a normal distribution:” and it assumes that you are completing the sentence with the most correct answer. There are three choices, one combination choice and one ‘all of the above’ choice. You need to treat each choice as a true and false statement.  If you immediately know that choice “a” is correct then you need to move onto b and c and consider if they too are correct.  Choice “c” will really need your consideration for being true or false as it will allow you to ignore or consider choices “d” and “e”.

  1. If we know the standard deviation of a normal distribution, we can:
  • A) Determine the mean
  • B) Determine the mode
  • C) Determine the median
  • D) Describe the variability of the distribution
  • E) All of the above

This question is asking about the relationship between the standard deviation of a normal distribution and mean, mode, median and variability. Think back to what you've learned about these concepts, and treat each question as a true or false statement to rule out each choice. If more than one choice seems correct, then consider the final choice (E - All of the above), but don’t jump to that before considering the individual choices.

  1. Z scores:
  • A) Divide a normal distribution into equal-sized pieces
  • B) Are equal to the standard deviation of a data set
  • C) Are equally spaced on a normal distribution
  • D) Both A and C
  • E) All of the above

This question just begins with the words ‘Z scores’ and therefore you must consider the answers as a completion of these two words. Note that the first three choices all have the word "equal" in them but use the word differently each time (e.g., equal-sized, equal, equally spaced). Concentrate on the use of the word "equal" to decide which statement (or a combo of two or all of them) will correctly complete the sentence.

  1. The normal curve:
  • A) Is always bell-shaped
  • B) Has a variance equal to the square of Z at 1
  • C) Is symmetrical about Z at 0 (zero)
  • D) Both A and C
  • E) All of the above

This question is a statement that needs the sentence completed with the most correct answer. Treat each statement as a true or false answer. If you are positive more than one statement is correct, then you need to consider the last two choices. The only way to rule out the last two choices (both a and c; all of the above) is to clearly ensure that there is only one correct answer from a, b or c. Read each statement separately.

  1. In a normal distribution:
  • A) The top 4% of all scores fall above Z at 2
  • B) The lowest 16% of all scores fall below Z at -1
  • C) The middle 66% of all scores fall between Z at 1 and Z at -1
  • D) All of the above
  • E) None of the above

This question really calls upon your understanding of the normal curve and the distribution of scores. It might be best to draw a little picture of the normal curve and label the percentage of scores that fall in each standard deviation. Label Z on the normal curve too. When you have this little drawing, the answer to the question should be much clearer and will allow you to read each statement with a reference diagram.

  1. A vertical line drawn down the middle of a normal curve:
  • A) Represents Z at 0 (zero)
  • B) Represents the median frequency
  • C) Divides the scores into two equal-sized groups
  • D) Both A and B
  • E) Both A and C

This is a question that requires a small normal curve distribution diagram to help you understand the three choices presented to you. You only have to rule out three possible answers. If you label the normal curve with all the proper titles and distribution of standard deviations, the diagram will help you determine the correct answer.

Given a test on which the scores were normally distributed, where 98% of the class passed, more people received a score of 72% than any other score, and a passing score was 50% , answer the following question:

  1. The average score on the test was:
  • A) 50%
  • B) 63%
  • C) 76%
  • D) None of the above
  • E) Not enough information

This question requires some work on your part. There is a little paragraph of information (a scenario) given to you before the question is asked. Read the scenario and underline the important information. Be aware that extra information might be presented to throw you off or be used for other questions later on the test. You may need to draw a diagram and/or do some calculations with the content you have studied.


Quiz Answers:

  1. B
  2. B
  3. C
  4. E
  5. D
  6. C
  7. D
  8. B
  9. E
  10. D


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