Every week in the run-up to the ACCA exams in December, Caron Betts will be guiding us through exam preparation from a tutor’s point of view.
Yesterday I had to go for my annual eye test. It didn’t go well:
Optician: “Which is clearer, the red or the green”?
Me: “One’s fatter and the other’s bolder?”
Optician: “What’s the lowest line you can read?”
Me: “Umm. None of them”
Optician (after enlarging the letters): “Please read the top line”
Me: “B or E, then F or P, then D – but it might be O and then T. Definitely T. Unless it’s Y. Yes it could be Y. Or T”
I suddenly realised how some of my students feel when faced with the multiple-choice questions in their exams. The answer is obviously there – but sometimes you just can’t see it.
Many times I have overheard students advising their peers to “choose B” as the answer to every question that they did not know. The idea being that statistically they would have to be right at some point. I do advise my students to “guess” any answer they don’t know – after all it is better to put something that nothing – but if everyone was always guessing B, surely more people would pass? Or perhaps the exam setter would never use B as the correct answer?
It’s not just students offering such advice. There are numerous articles on how to beat an MCQ test. Advice such as avoiding the answers with “always” or “never”, even though (confusingly) “all of the above” or “none of the above” are often correct! Then there’s the tip that the longest answer must always right, simply because it took the examiner longer to write!
When the ACCA introduced MCQ exams I was concerned that the exam would be easier to pass. I have always been pleased that the ACCA has an open-door policy (you can start with no previous qualifications) and that the exam process ensured that the quality of those passing was maintained. I feared that removing a number of constructed response questions and replacing them with objective test questions would mean that students could pass by “guessing”.
That has not proved true. In this month’s PQ magazine, there has been feedback on the recent ACCA exams with students believing the questions are too long. An F5 sitter is quoted as saying “You are supposed to take two minutes per MCQ question but it takes five minutes to read and understand some, so how does that work?”. Further comments about MCQs included “a bit brutal” (F6), “tricky” (F8) and in F9 they “absolutely hated” the MCQs.
How can students better prepare for such exams?
Practice, practice, practice. By sitting similar tests to time, students get used to the pressure of evaluating information and making accurate selections. Of course, there may still be questions where they need to guess but hopefully they will be educated guesses, not just option B.
Or is that an “E”?