Tips for AP Statistics Multiple-Choice Questions

Tips for Multiple-Choice Questions

There are whole industries dedicated to teaching you how to take a test. In reality, no amount of test-taking strategy will replace knowledge of the subject. If you are on top of the subject, you’ll most likely do well even if you haven’t paid $500 for a test-prep course. The following tips, when combined with your statistics knowledge, should help you do well.

1. Read the question carefully before beginning. A lot of mistakes get made because students don’t completely understand the question before trying to answer it. The result is that they will often answer a different question than they were asked.

2. Try to answer multiple choice questions before you look at the answers. Looking at the choices and trying to figure out which one works best is not a good strategy. You run the risk of being led astray by an incorrect answer. Instead, try to answer the question first, as if there was just a blank for the answer and no choices.

3. Understand that the incorrect answers (which are called distractors) are designed to appear reasonable. Don’t get suckered into choosing an answer just because it sounds good! The question designers try to base the distractors on the most common mistakes and misconceptions. For example, suppose you are asked for the median of the five numbers 3, 4, 6, 7, and 15. The correct answer is 6 (the middle score in the ordered list). But suppose you misread the question and calculated the mean instead. You’d get 7 and, be assured, 7 will appear as one of the distractors.

4. Drawing a picture can often help visualize the situation described in the problem. Sometimes, relationships become clearer when a picture is used to display them. For example, using Venn diagrams or two-way tables can often help you “see” the nature of a probability problem. Another example would be using a graph or a scatterplot of some given data as part of doing a regression analysis.

5. Answer every question. You will earn one point for each correct answer. Incorrect answers are worth zero points, and no points are earned for blank responses. If you aren’t sure of an answer, eliminate as many choices as you can, then guess.

6. Double check that you have (a) answered the question you are working on, especially if you’ve left some questions blank (it’s horrible to realize at some point that all of your responses are one question off!) and (b) that you have filled in the correct bubble for your answer. If you need to make changes, make sure you erase completely and neatly.

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