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Sitting a multiple choice exam

By Mags, who has passed the first two exams with the last to go

So, you tell your colleagues that your professional exams are multiple choice and you get a patronising smirk or an outright ‘well that’s easy then’ comment. Think again. These exams are not easy. Personally, I would probably do better if I was able to write answers in my own words. I hate multiple choice. It puts doubt in my mind and makes me consider options that I wouldn’t have been distracted by if they weren’t there on the screen in front of me. I thought I’d write a bit about this in case others are feeling the same way.

I found a few things helped me deal with this style of exam: one thing was to pay attention to key words. For example, in a question about CAE responsibilities, answers about operations that included words like ‘instruct’, ‘decide’, ‘manage’ were probably wrong (because operational management is responsible for managing) and answers including words like ‘advise’ or ‘evaluate’ were more likely to be right (as more fitting with the role of internal audit). Obviously this is a generalisation but it might help.

Secondly, avoiding ‘absolutes’; e.g. auditors can’t ‘guarantee’ controls or ‘eliminate’ risks so those words often indicate a wrong answer. Correct answers are more likely to contain words/phrases like ‘help to achieve’ or ‘increase the likelihood’.

Finally, reading the question properly in the first place i.e. thinking about the words in bold like ‘least’ likely option or ‘most’ appropriate and not picking the opposite answer. Sounds obvious but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever picked the wrong answer because they haven’t read the question properly.

The option to ‘flag for review’ is good for those questions where you know it’s between two options but can’t quite work out which one is the better answer. I had about 35 minutes at the end of the part two exam to go back over the ones I flagged (about 20 out of the 100 questions in my case) and this was really useful. It’s worth doing the practice exam to see how this works.

The difference between the exam and the CIA learning tests is that you don’t get an answer as you go through. The quizzes on the CIA student hub are more realistic in that sense. Not getting instant feedback can be good as you don’t get demoralised by knowing that you’ve got questions wrong, it can also work the other way though as you don’t know that you’re doing ok. On both the part one and part two exams I had moments when I had to ‘have a word with myself’ as I thought I was not doing well and, particularly in part one as it’s such a long exam, it could have been quite easy to give in to negativity.  I found I had to put negative thoughts aside and just keep going. I passed so was doing better than I thought I was at the time.