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Reading task type four: multiple choice

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 appropriate letters A-D and write your answers in boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.

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

A. The ship
B. The Titanic’s owners and builders
C. Standard operating procedure
D. The captain and crew
2.The number of lifeboats on the Titanic …

A. would have been sufficient if all boats had been filled to capacity
B. met the regulations for much smaller ships but not the Titanic
C. had been designed in 1894 by the British Board of Trade
D. could carry more people than required under the regulations
3.The Titanic was …

A. higher than the tallest buildings of her day
B. divided into 16 watertight compartments
C. unsinkable
D. the most technologically advanced liner of her time


 Answer Key  
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.