Reading task type four: multiple choice

Task description

In this question type you will be given a 'stem' which may be an incomplete sentence or a question. The stem will be followed by three or four options - one will be correct (the answer) and three may seem possible but are in fact incorrect in some way (the distracters). In tackling this type of question, it is very important to read the stem carefully. Candidates often make careless mistakes when they misread the stem and so choose the wrong option.

What is being tested

Multiple choice questions can be designed to test a wide variety of reading skills. The questions may require you to have an overall understanding of the main points of the text as in Question 1 of the sample task, in which case you will need to be able to read for gist. Or they may require you to have a detailed understanding of particular points as in questions 2 and 3 of the Sample Task, in which case you will need to be able to read for specific details. Multiple choice questions may also ask you to identify facts or opinions in the text.

Sample task

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

Write your answres in boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.

1Which is most at fault for the magnitude of the Titanic disaster?

2The number of lifeboats on the Titanic...

3The Titanic was...


How to approach multiple choice questions

Step 1:
Read the instructions carefully.
Step 2:
Skim all the questions briefly to get an idea of the topics for which you will be searching when reading the text.
Step 3:
Read the first question again more carefully. Decide what you will need to read to answer the question. Is the question asking you for a particular detail that you need to find in the text? Or is the question asking you for an answer which requires a global understanding of the whole text?
Step 4:
Once you have decided the best strategy for dealing with the question (as above), you will need to proceed to read the text in the appropriate manner, for example reading for gist, reading for detail etc.

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