The skill of answering multiple-choice questions
Listening and Reading Parts B and C are multiple-choice question tasks. This means that you need to work on improving these skills to help you feel calm and confident about them on test day.
Listening Parts B and C are three-option multiple choice questions meaning that for each question there are 3 possible answers: A, B, C. Reading Part B is also three-option but Reading Part C is four-option meaning that there are 4 possible answers for each question: A, B, C, D.
Of course, the beauty of multiple-choice questions is that the answer is on the page. Compared to other question types where you have to pick out the answer from what you hear or read, with multiple-choice questions you don’t; it’s given to you.
The downside to this is that some test takers take quite a simple approach to multiple-choice questions believing it will be easy to spot the correct answer from the incorrect ones. With skill and strategies such as the ones below, it can be possible to consistently select the correct answer BUT it takes practice. After all, a pass grade at OET is providing proof to regulators and employers that you have proficient English skills in Reading and Listening.
Strategy 1 – understand the question
The question contains a lot of essential information to help you choose the correct answer option but you have to read it carefully. There are two types of question used by OET:
- A short answer question e.g. What is being described in this section of the guidelines?
- A sentence completion question e.g. If vaccines have been stored incorrectly,
Some students find the second type of question more difficult to understand because it is not phrased as a question. The idea is that you read the start of the sentence with each of the options to decide which is the best way to complete it.
It may be helpful to turn the incomplete sentence into a question so you feel clearer about its meaning e.g.
If vaccines have been stored incorrectly… → What is the result of incorrect storage of vaccines?
Strategy 2 – understand the options
In Part B answer options, read the verb in the question and focus on both what this verb means but also how it is different to the verbs in the other options e.g
- sent back
Put the verbs into your own words as this makes sure you really understand them. It is also likely that you will hear or read synonyms rather than the exact same words which are written:
- tell someone else, perhaps a manager
- throw in the bin
- return to where it came from
Strategy 3 – keep concentrating
I don’t know about you but when I take an OET practice test, I’m always surprised by how quickly I lose concentration. This is particularly true when I’m listening. I think I’m focusing on the question and answer options but then, suddenly, I realise I’ve been thinking about dinner and I’ve missed most of the recording for that answer. It’s easily done even when you’re a native speaker. You will have to be vigilant on your concentration. Do not let your mind wander. For this reason, we recommend you don’t practise using headphones as most test venues don’t provide these on test day. If you are only familiar with listening through headphones, you are likely to find yourself distracted by the noises of what’s going on around you. This is how it’ll be in real life when you’re listening to patients and colleagues so it’s best to stop using headphones now to prepare for both the test and the workplace now.
Strategy 4 – move on
All of the multiple-choice questions are independent. This means they don’t require you to get the previous question correct to be able to get the next question correct. If you find you have missed an answer in Listening or you can’t easily answer a question in Reading, move on. If it’s Listening, make a guess based on your understanding of what you heard. For Reading, also make a guess so you have the answer on the paper within the time limit but perhaps come back to it if you have time at the end for a second check.
We’ll keep suggesting tips and strategies for the test but the best place to start is our Masterclasses which you can download for free and present a lot of important information very concisely.