In an objective-type test such as the preliminary of the Civil Services Exam, answer the easy questions first and go back to tough ones.

The candidate who knows most need not necessarily score the highest marks in any examination. This is particularly true of competitive examinations, thanks to their special style.

Taking an objective-type test requires a sound strategy. Do not waste time by reading all the questions from the beginning to the end of the paper. In the conventional examinations, where you have the option to choose some of the questions, you invariably read all the questions in the beginning to locate the questions you can answer best. Such an exercise is of no use in competitive tests, since there is no “choice” in the questions. You had better start answering the easy ones and skipping the tougher variety. You may get time for a second round to try your hand at the questions that you skipped in the first round.

Skipping is vital

Do not be too ambitious and stubborn, trying to answer all questions correctly in the limited time. Such an obstinate attitude may spoil your chances of a good performance. A candidate who does not want to leave any question unanswered would waste time for a tough question that he can never solve. The clock waits for none, and you may not get time even for reading some of the easy questions that follow. When confronted with a difficult question, skip it without hesitation.

Save time for answering simple questions. After reaching the end of the question paper, you can revisit the questions you skipped earlier. So you have seen all the questions. On the other hand, an adamant candidate is likely to regret missing the easy questions, losing time.

You should familiarise yourself with the tactics and strategies for handling objective-type questions and implement them in full in the examination hall. Even during your practice sessions or rehearsals, the principles should be faithfully followed. Because of the time constraint, you should not waste even a moment in the examination hall. You should rehearse all your movements repeatedly. Things should proceed strictly according to your screenplay. You should face the challenge of providing as many right answers as possible in the limited time available.

There are different types of objective-type questions, such as true or false, assertion and reason, matching and right sequencing. Most selection tests, including the preliminary of the Civil Service Examination, use the multiple-choice type. Each question has a stem followed by four options. If you read the stem along with any one of the options, you will get a statement. Of the four statements, only one will be right. You have to identify the correct answer and reject the three distracters. If you choose a wrong answer, you will be penalised by deducting one-third of the marks assigned to that question. If there are elements of truth in more than one of the options given, you should choose the most correct option. In the preliminary examinations, there may be a few questions in which negative marking is inbuilt in the form of different marks being awarded to the most appropriate and not so appropriate answers.

Informed guess

However, there may be occasions when a candidate may make an informed guess. Suppose he is sure that two of the answers given are patently wrong.

He may have the option to choose one of the two remaining answers with a 50 per cent probability of being right.

Even there, wise counsel would dictate not to go for gambling. “Leave any question, if you are not sure of its answer.”

As you read the questions, take care of words such as few, hardly, seldom, rarely, scarcely, usually, probably, never, not, always, except, and but. These may modify, limit, or even negate the main statement.

If you are not sure of the answer, do not be tempted to make a wild guess. Your chance for being right in your guess is only 25 per cent, but the chance to be wrong is 75 per cent. So the likelihood of being punished through negative marking is three times that of gaining positive marks through the guess.

Remember that there is no deduction of marks for not attempting a question.

Sometimes you may be able to eliminate a wrong answer from two seemingly right ones, through a grammatical mismatch of the stem and the option. For example, if the stem ends in the word “an,” the answer has to start with a vowel; others could be eliminated. This kind of grammatical clues cannot succeed most of the time, since the question-setters are usually careful in choosing their phrases.

If you are thorough with the subject, try to recollect its answer after you read the stem, but before going to the distracters in the answers. If you find the anticipated answer, you can accept it after confirming that none of the others is better than what you had anticipated.

(Next week: CSE: Further strategies to tackle objective tests)