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Taking multiple-choice exams: not as easy as they seem.

Many people feel that multiple-choice examinations are easy--so easy that they often fail to adequately prepare for them. So, how does one prepare to take a multiple-choice test?

Review the content of the examination. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking that you can easily pass a multiple-choice test because there's a high statistical possibility that if you know nothing, you'll still pass--and since you know something, there's a more than an even chance that you'll pass the examination. The fallacy in this reasoning is that unless you know enough to pass, there is only a 25-percent chance you will get any one question correct.

There are test-taking techniques that can help you be successful on all multiple-choice exams, as their questions all have a particular format. Each question has two pieces--the actual question is called the stem, and the answers (NCMA's certification exams all have four possible answers) are called options.

Read Each Question

Read each question, both the stem and the options. Don't skim over the question, recognize the buzzwords, think you know what they meank, and jump to the answer. Carefully read the stem, paying attention to see that the question is not asking you to select the option that is incorrect. Don't "read into" the question too much; the stem is the stem is the stem.

Read carefully--don't leap to the correct answer on the basis of few words in the question. The question might be asking for the exception, or it might be using an analogy: neither of these would be picked up with a cursory glance. To give you a silly example, try this question. "Ring around the rosy, pocketful of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down," is supposedly based on which one of the following:

(1) A nursery rhyme,

(2) Fashion,

(3) A historical event, or

(4) Gardening.

Reading quickly, you recognize that this is a nursery rhyme, and so you check number 1 and race off to the next question. However, the correct answer is 3, a historical event. According to popular lore, this rhyme is erroneously believed to be based on the bubonic plague of the 14th century.

After you read the stem, think of the correct answer before you read the options. That way, you may more readily recognize the option that is correct. If you are unsure of the correct answer, read the stem and then read option 1. Read the stem and then read option 2. Read the stem and then read option 3. Read the stem and then read option 4. Don't try to shortcut the process by reading the stem once and then reading the options in order from 1 to 4. By the time you get to option 4, you may not remember exactly how the stem was presented. You may be able to discount an option because it simply does not grammatically match up with the stem.

Reason with yourself. If you don't know the correct answer, figure out the reason why option 1 may be incorrect, and then do the same for the other options. The one that you cannot reasonably assume to be incorrect may be, in fact, the correct answer.

Don't Stop

If you really don't know the answer, then move on. Don't create your own logjam by spending too much time obsessing on one question; you can always return to it. You can't however, select the correct answers for questions 90-100 if you get stuck and never get past question 89. Quite often, something will happen and when you return, the answer will become clear. It's marvelous how sometimes your brain automatically multi-tasks and continues to work on a problem while you go on to solve another!

More Information

For more reading about taking multiple-choice exams, look at the NCMA Web site under the certification/study materials link ( There are links to several pages that address multiple-choice question preparation. There are also some exam questions for practice--none of which will be on the actual exams. Finally, check out this Web site,, which addresses these kinds of tests.

NCMA congratulates Christine Hazlett, CPCM, an active member of the Dayton Chapter, for having recently earned both the CFCM and the CCCM. She successfully completed the three examinations that comprise these two designations--Hazlett is also an NCMA Fellow and has won other NCMA high-honor awards for her volunteer service and merits.


NCMA Member Recognized for SB Excellence

In his letter of June 7, 2004, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Commander, General Donald G. Cook, congratulated Ray A. Blevins on his selection as the recipient of the Secretary of the Air Force Special Achievement Award, Individual Category, for the top small business advocate in the U.S. Air Force. Blevins is the director of business operation for the 314th Contracting Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. He is a member and past president of the Central Arkansas Chapter of NCMA.




Edward Velasquez (right), NCMA national director of the South West Region, welcomes National President Chuck Woodside (left) to the opening swearing-in ceremony for this new California chapter.



At a recent chapter meeting, Kyle Hewitt (second from right), a West Virginia University student, holds on to his "big" $500 scholarship check from the chapter and three local companies. (Left to right) Speaker Steve Moumighan, DOE Deputy Director of Procurement and Assistance Management (far left), Chapter President Diana Lewis, and VP Belinda Sheridan.



Chapter officers present guest speaker Phil Salmeri (second from left) with gift--a donation to the Leukemia Society in his honor. From left to right around Salmeri: Gail Parrott (president), Summer Duffing (public relations chair), Rick Anzelone (program committee), and Min Kim (newsletter editor).


About the Author

LOUISE WEHRLE, PH.D., is the director of certification at NCMA. Send comments on this article to
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Title Annotation:NCMA ASSOCIATION NEWS; National Contract Management Association
Author:Wehrle, Louise
Publication:Contract Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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