To help your students choose the best answer to a multiple choice question, they need to practice three key steps. These steps are previewing the questions, disproving wrong answers, and proving the correct answer. We will discuss each of these in greater detail.
First, they should preview the questions before they read the text. By reading the questions, they will have a better idea of the kind of information they should be searching for in their reading, and can make appropriate annotations in the margins as they read. For example, if there is a vocabulary question about the meaning of a specific word, they can be watching for the word and any surrounding context clues, underlining the word and making notations in the margin about its meaning. Or if there is a question about a sequence of events, they may want to number major events in the story as they read.
Secondly, encourage your students to disprove the wrong answers. With the standard four answer choices, there is usually one that they can immediately identify as wrong. But have your readers take it a step further, and as they eliminate an answer, they should get in the habit of noting WHY it is incorrect. Here is one example of an obviously wrong choice being ruled out, as well as notation of why it was ruled out.
Question: Which sentence best states the main idea of the selection?
A. All this information was available because of the microchip that had been placed under Scrub’s skin many years earlier.
B. Microchips have helped thousands of owners get their lost pets back.
C. However, thanks to her microchip, Roxy was soon returned to her grateful owner.
D. However, tags and collars can fall off or become difficult to read. *This choice can be eliminated because it is just one small detail near the end of the passage. The whole text is NOT about lost tags and collars.
Consider this: if a student guesses an answer, they have a 25% chance of being correct. If they are able to eliminate just one choice, they raise that percentage to 33%. If they can eliminate two answers right away, they have 50% chance of answering it correctly. More importantly, by taking the time to really thing about why an answer is not right, it often leads the reader to discovering the correct answer.
Finally, and most importantly, students should be able to PROVE where they found the correct answer. If the correct answer is stated directly in the text, they can underline it, and then next to the answer choice, teach them to note in which paragraph they found the stated answer. However, most questions are not that straightforward, and students need to use multiple ideas from a text, or make inferences on their own, in order to answer a question correctly. This is where the previewing they did before reading, and their annotations made during reading, are useful. Consider this example:
Question: Read the dictionary entry below. Which definition best fits how critical is used in paragraph 1?
critical ı kri-ti-k l adj 1. relating to a stage of illness 2. tending to evaluate unfavorably 3. needed to serve a purpose 4. using careful judgment
F. Definition 1
G. Definition 2
H. Definition 3 –
J. Definition 4
By teaching your students these three steps, they will be better equipped to tackle any multiple choice question.