What makes us humans so predictable? Without going into the details of that answer, let’s thank God for that because being predictable translates into whatever we do isn’t random, especially the tests. This is where your eyes should be wide open with excitement and amazement. Yes it is true; this predictability can be called the fundamental flaw and this resulted in William Poundstone to claim that all kinds of MCQs have some general patterns that can be learnt and used to score well in the exam.
He went through 2,456 questions from different 100 tests from a plethora of sources and finally, claims that he has come up with a statistical pattern. However, before you dive into this guide, be warned in words of Poundstone; ‘a guessing strategy is useful to the extent that it beats random guessing’. That translates into; the actual knowledge of the subject does matter and this guide only helps you with those difficult questions that you have to guess by improving your guess work.
Whatever you have learned over the course of years regarding test taking – Forget it. Why? Because what you have learned is what the test setters know as well and that is how they will trap you. You have been told not to opt for ‘all of the above’ or ‘none of the above’ options. However, as per Poundstone these options were correct 52% of the time and choosing such answer choices gives you a 90% more chance of scoring a right answer! The tip over here is; unlearn what you have learned.
This you might have observed as well; if you look at the answer sheet for the consecutive questions, you will notice that the answer choices are never the same for them. For example question 1 has option A as answer and question 2 has option D as answer; then it is safe to assume that question 2’s correct answer will not be option A or D. Poundstone, however, reminds again that ‘knowledge trumps out guessing’ and that you should first cross out the answers you know are wrong, based on facts.
In words of Poundstone; ‘Test makers have to make sure that right answers are indisputably right. Often this demands some qualifying language. They may not try so hard with wrong answers.’ So if you do have a longer than usual answer options there’s a very high chance for that option to be the correct answer!
When you are looking at the options, try and ascertain the option that is an outlier. Once you’ve done that, cross out the options that have a similar meaning. Poundstone says; ‘It’s hard to see how one could be unambiguously correct and the other unambiguously wrong’. In simple words; the option that is not similar to others – aka outlier – will be wrong and you can cross it out right away.