Timesaver Techniques for Multiple Choice Questions
Reading
Timesaver Techniques for Multiple Choice Questions

In previous blogs, we've seen that while some types of reading questions require careful preparation, others should only be read once you've completed individual paragraphs to save time and avoid confusion. When it comes to multiple-choice questions, you'll need to combine both techniques.  Therefore, you should read the ‘headline’ part of the question before you start reading the text but leave the multiple-choice answers until you’ve identified the relevant section of the reading passage.  Let me take you through my thought process in completing this example from IELTS 13 Academic (page 48) on a text entitled ‘Making the Most of Trends’. This is the ‘headline’ part of the first question: ‘In the first paragraph, the writer said that most managers’… With this kind of question, I can set an internal ‘alarm clock’ by asking: ‘What do most managers do?’ Here, I also don’t have to worry too much about identifying the passage since the text tells me where to look for the answer. I read the first paragraph quite slowly with this question in mind. As I read, I get quite excited, because the first sentence starts with: ‘Most managers can identify the major trends of the day.’ It’s now time for me to look at my possible answers and here they are: 1. fail to spot the key consumer trends of the moment. 2. make the mistake of focusing only on the principal consumer trends. 3. misinterpret market research data relating to current consumer trends. 4. are unaware of the significant impact that trends have on consumers’ lives At this stage, I’m a little disappointed, as the first sentence doesn’t actually provide me with the answer. Instead, it’s quite a typical ‘trap’ for this type of question, because the vocabulary in option A is almost identical to the question. However, the meaning is the exact opposite: can vs fail.  This teaches us that in this type of question we must pay attention to ‘little’ words such as ‘can’, ‘will’ and ‘not’ since they can change the meaning of the sentence drastically. I now check if any of the remaining answers are correct. However, in doing so I realise that all of the answers relate to problems or failures. This means that the answer is not in the first sentence. In order to save time, I don’t prepare my remaining three options in detail. Instead, I ask myself this question as I read the rest of the paragraph: What are most managers getting wrong?’  As I read on, I realise that the answer must be in this phrase: ‘managers often fail to recognise the less obvious but profound ways these trends are influencing consumers’ aspirations, attitudes, and behaviours’. I now go over my remaining three answers and I can eliminate C because data is not mentioned, and although there is a mention of research earlier in the paragraph, this is not directly linked to the idea of failure. (Similarly, the mention of trends peripheral to core markets at the end of the paragraph, has no direct link with failure.) Thus, it is absolutely vital to look for links between ideas in multiple-choice questions and establish how different ideas relate to each other. Most words/ideas are likely to be present somewhere in the text, so it’s really important that you confirm what exactly is being said about them and which one links directly to the headline section of the question in order to eliminate answers designed to confuse you.  So, the only possible answer remaining in our example is D, and as I check I’m pretty confident that ‘consumers’ lives’ and ‘consumers’ aspirations, attitudes and behaviours’ are synonymous. Be careful: Some questions might contain what I would call ‘distraction’ answers, where the information is not contained in the text at all and the answers are therefore designed to slow you down by making you look for confirmation in other sections of the text. It’s therefore really important that you confidently identify the right section in the text.  Finally, make sure that you’re able to confirm your answer from the words on the page. Sometimes certain answers are implied by the information we’re given, but the text never actually states the information itself and the option is therefore not correct.    If you found this helpful, why not check out my other blogs on timesaver strategies in the reading exam, where I take you through other types of reading questions? Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

16 September, 2020

Timesaver Techniques for Multiple Choice Questions

Timesaver Techniques for Multiple Choice Questions

In previous blogs, we've seen that while some types of reading questions require careful preparation, others should only be read once you've completed individual paragraphs to save time and avoid confusion. When it comes to multiple-choice questions, you'll need to combine both techniques. 

Therefore, you should read the ‘headline’ part of the question before you start reading the text but leave the multiple-choice answers until you’ve identified the relevant section of the reading passage. 

Let me take you through my thought process in completing this example from IELTS 13 Academic (page 48) on a text entitled ‘Making the Most of Trends’.

This is the ‘headline’ part of the first question: ‘In the first paragraph, the writer said that most managers

With this kind of question, I can set an internal ‘alarm clock’ by asking: ‘What do most managers do?’ Here, I also don’t have to worry too much about identifying the passage since the text tells me where to look for the answer. I read the first paragraph quite slowly with this question in mind.

As I read, I get quite excited, because the first sentence starts with: ‘Most managers can identify the major trends of the day.’

It’s now time for me to look at my possible answers and here they are:

1. fail to spot the key consumer trends of the moment.

2. make the mistake of focusing only on the principal consumer trends.

3. misinterpret market research data relating to current consumer trends.

4. are unaware of the significant impact that trends have on consumers’ lives

At this stage, I’m a little disappointed, as the first sentence doesn’t actually provide me with the answer. Instead, it’s quite a typical ‘trap’ for this type of question, because the vocabulary in option A is almost identical to the question. However, the meaning is the exact opposite: can vs fail

This teaches us that in this type of question we must pay attention to ‘little’ words such as ‘can’, ‘will’ and ‘not’ since they can change the meaning of the sentence drastically.

I now check if any of the remaining answers are correct. However, in doing so I realise that all of the answers relate to problems or failures. This means that the answer is not in the first sentence. In order to save time, I don’t prepare my remaining three options in detail. Instead, I ask myself this question as I read the rest of the paragraph: What are most managers getting wrong?’ 

As I read on, I realise that the answer must be in this phrase: ‘managers often fail to recognise the less obvious but profound ways these trends are influencing consumers’ aspirations, attitudes, and behaviours’. I now go over my remaining three answers and I can eliminate C because data is not mentioned, and although there is a mention of research earlier in the paragraph, this is not directly linked to the idea of failure. (Similarly, the mention of trends peripheral to core markets at the end of the paragraph, has no direct link with failure.) Thus, it is absolutely vital to look for links between ideas in multiple-choice questions and establish how different ideas relate to each other. Most words/ideas are likely to be present somewhere in the text, so it’s really important that you confirm what exactly is being said about them and which one links directly to the headline section of the question in order to eliminate answers designed to confuse you. 

So, the only possible answer remaining in our example is D, and as I check I’m pretty confident that ‘consumers’ lives’ and ‘consumers’ aspirations, attitudes and behaviours’ are synonymous.

Be careful: Some questions might contain what I would call ‘distraction’ answers, where the information is not contained in the text at all and the answers are therefore designed to slow you down by making you look for confirmation in other sections of the text. It’s therefore really important that you confidently identify the right section in the text. 

Finally, make sure that you’re able to confirm your answer from the words on the page. Sometimes certain answers are implied by the information we’re given, but the text never actually states the information itself and the option is therefore not correct. 

 

If you found this helpful, why not check out my other blogs on timesaver strategies in the reading exam, where I take you through other types of reading questions?

Sophie

top-tip

Tip: Once you’ve identified the relevant passage, slow down, pay attention to ‘little’ words (will, not) and words that put ideas into context with each other (greater, cause), find the link to the headline question and make sure you can confirm your answer. 

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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