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Multiple Choice Questions

When taking an English language exam, you will come across multiple choice questions. Multiple choice questions are defined as questions with several possible answers to choose from. However, only one of those answers is right! There are several advantages and disadvantages to multiple choice questions. As long as you know what types of multiple choice questions you are answering and how to answer them, you should do great!

Multiple Choice Questions Definition

Multiple choice questions are common in English language exams. They are used to test your reading and writing skills.

A multiple choice question is a question with a list of several possible answers to choose from. Multiple choice questions ask you to choose the correct answer out of that list.

How are multiple choice questions structured?

In English exams, questions are structured with three defining features: the stimulus passage, the question, and the list of possible answers. Let's take a look at what each feature includes.

1. The stimulus passage

The first part of a multiple choice question is the stimulus passage.

A stimulus passage is an excerpt from a text you use to answer a multiple choice question. The questions you answer will be based on the stimulus passage.

In an English language exam, the stimulus passage will be from a nonfiction text. Each stimulus passage in an English exam is followed by several multiple choice questions. Each question focuses on one aspect of the passage.

A few years ago, I was teaching a college-level ethics course when I met a student named William Peeples Jr. He was a voracious reader, an elegant writer, a deep and creative thinker and a supportive classmate who always lifted up the voices of those around him.

He exuded a joyful love of learning that was infectious in the classroom, motivating all of us to fully embrace the powerful force education can have on a human life. I’ve been a professor for more than 20 years, and Peeples was not only one of the best students I’d ever taught, he also left an indelible mark on me as both a person and an educator.

But it turns out that Peeples wasn’t supposed to be in my classroom at all. In fact, he was supposed to be dead. In 1990, Peeples was sentenced to death in a Cook County, Illinois courthouse for killing his next-door neighbor. If former Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan hadn’t ended the death penalty — commuting all death sentences to life sentences — William would have been executed, never finding his way into my course at Stateville Correctional Center.1

2. The question

Right after the stimulus passage, there will be questions about that passage. These questions might be general to the passage or specific to one section of the passage.

Some questions sound more like statements. These types of questions ask you to finish a statement in your answer.

In paragraph 3, the writer's position on the death penalty is best described as _____.

3. The list of possible answers

After the question, there will be a list of possible answers. Your job is to choose the right answer. There will only be one. The rest of the answers are distractors.

Distractors are answers that are meant to distract you from the correct answer. They may sound right or be close to correct to make you second-guess yourself.

Distractors are tricky! Sometimes it can seem like there's more than one correct answer. It's best to focus on choosing the most correct answer.

Multiple Choice Questions, avoiding tricky distractors, StudySmarterIdentify the MOST correct answer to avoid tricky distractors- StudySmarter Originals

Advantages and Disadvantages of Multiple Choice Questions?

Multiple choice questions have several advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the benefits of multiple choice questions and how to deal with their disadvantages.

The advantages of multiple choice questions

Multiple choice questions give you flexibility and an opportunity to show off your reading and writing skills.

Some of the benefits of multiple choice questions are:

  • Time. It takes less time to answer multiple choice questions than it does to write an essay.
  • Choices. Multiple choice questions offer more than one choice of answer. This allows you to make an educated guess when necessary.
  • Play to your strengths. Multiple choice questions allow you to show off what you know about different aspects of reading and writing. Even if you're not as strong in certain areas, you can still do well on a multiple-choice exam.

The disadvantages of multiple choice questions

Of course, multiple choice questions aren't perfect. There are some disadvantages to them.

Some of the disadvantages of multiple choice questions are:

  • Tricky answers. Some of the answer choices in a multiple choice question are designed to trip you up. They may sound close to the right answer or be partially right. This can be confusing and make you second-guess yourself. When this happens, focus on choosing the most correct answer.
  • Information overload. The wide variety of things you have to know to answer multiple choice questions can seem overwhelming. It helps to take each question one at a time. Think of each question as one baby step toward finishing the exam.

Types of Multiple Choice Questions with Examples

There are two primary types of multiple choice questions in an English language exam: reading questions and writing questions. Read on for an overview of these types of questions and what they might look like.

Reading Questions

Reading questions focus on your ability to understand the choices made by a writer. Reading questions will ask you to consider how and why the writer of the stimulus passage made their rhetorical choices.

Rhetorical choices are the decisions a writer makes to convey meaning and have an effect on the reader.

When answering a reading question, focus on the writer's purpose. Consider how they convey that purpose. Think about how they use their words, evidence, and organization to achieve that purpose.

Types of Reading Questions

Look over the table below for an overview of the different types of reading questions with examples.

Type of Reading QuestionDescriptionExample

Purpose

This type of question asks you to identify the purpose of a particular rhetorical choice in the stimulus passage.

The purpose refers to the effect the writer intends to have on the reader. What do they hope to accomplish with this rhetorical choice?

In the second paragraph, the writer introduces a hypothetical scenario primarily to _____.

Audience

This type of question asks you to consider the intended audience of the stimulus passage. It might ask you about the effect a writer's rhetorical choice has on the audience.

Think about who the audience is and how they might react to the choices the author makes in the stimulus passage.

Which of the following best represents the author’s intended audience?

Claims

This type of question asks you to determine what type of claim the writer is making in the stimulus passage.

A claims question might also ask why the writer would want to make this type of claim.

In lines 10-12, the author’s point about “media consumers” and their expectations of social media is that social media should be ______.

Line of Reasoning

This type of question asks you how the writer develops their line of reasoning.

A line of reasoning question might also ask you to consider which choices the writer makes that reveal their line of reasoning.

In the third paragraph, the series of rhetorical questions serves the speaker's line of reasoning by _____.

Evidence

This type of question asks you to consider the evidence used in the stimulus passage.

An evidence question might ask:

  • what type of evidence the writer uses
  • why the writer would choose that evidence
  • how the evidence is relevant to the thesis of the stimulus passage
  • The footnote 3 in line28 indicates ______.
  • The speaker employs an analogy in lines 22-25 to _____.

Position

This type of question asks you to identify the writer's position or stance in the stimulus passage. A position question might also ask how the writer's position affects their rhetorical choices in the stimulus passage.In the third paragraph (lines 30–38), which of the following best characterizes the writer’s position on the relevance of her topic for parents?

Tone

This type of question asks you about the tone of the stimulus passage. The tone refers to the mood the writer sets with their words. A tone question might ask you how the writer conveys their tone or which words in the stimulus passage reveal the writer's tone.Lines 15–25 could be used to support which of the following claims about the writer’s tone?

Writing Questions

Writing questions focus on your ability to write and revise texts. Writing questions will ask you to “read like a writer” and think about how you would revise the stimulus passage.

When answering writing questions, think about how the passage could be improved.

As you read the stimulus passage, ask yourself:

  • How could the sentences be clearer?
  • What types of evidence would make the most sense to support the writer's purpose?
  • What changes would you make to the passage's word choices and organization?

Types of Writing Questions

Look to the table below to learn about different types of writing questions with examples.

Type of Writing QuestionDescriptionExample
PurposeThis type of question asks you to select a choice or method to accomplish the writer's purpose. A purpose question may also ask why that choice helps the writer achieve their purpose. In the third paragraph, the writer wants to expand on the concession that e-books are more convenient than print books. Which of the following claims would best achieve this purpose?
OrganizationThis type of question asks you to consider the best organizational methods for the stimulus passage. This type of question is very popular. An organization question might ask:
  • where a sentence would best fit
  • how to best transition from one claim or piece of evidence to the next
  • the best arrangement of paragraphs or ideas
  • the best order for sentences within a paragraph
The writer wants to add a phrase at the beginning of sentence 4 to set up a comparison with the idea discussed in sentence 3. Which of the following choices best accomplishes this goal?

Introduction

This type of question asks you to choose the best hook or introductory sentence for the stimulus passage. An introduction question might also ask you to choose the best way to introduce an idea or piece of evidence. Which of the following sentences, if placed before sentence 1, would best capture the audience’s interest and provide the most effective introduction to the topic of the passage?
Evidence

This type of question asks you about the relationships between evidence, claims, and citation.

An evidence question might ask:

  • which choice of words would best connect evidence to a claim
  • the best way to integrate a quote into a sentence
  • how to appropriately cite evidence
  • how a piece of evidence supports a claim in the stimulus passage
  • The writer wants to add more information to the fourth paragraph to support the main argument of the paragraph. Which of the following pieces of evidence help achieve this goal?
  • The writer wants to clarify the source of information in sentence 12 by adding an in-text citation with correct punctuation. Which of the following versions of this sentence best achieves this goal?

Tips for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

When taking a multiple choice exam, be prepared. Practice with exam questions and try to make sure you take about one minute to answer each question. It doesn't have to be hard! Just follow the tips below.

Mark up and annotate

When reading the stimulus passage, mark key terms, pieces of evidence, and claims. Write out your thoughts on the author's rhetorical choices. Underline or highlight any sections of the passage that are dealt with in the questions.

Read the background information

Sometimes the stimulus passage has background information. Information like the year of publication, type of text, and location can help you understand the purpose and claims of the writer. It can also help you understand certain word choices (like words that are outdated).

Find what fits

Multiple choice questions offer you different possible answers. Try out each answer to see how well it fits. Mark out options that don't work. Try reading it out loud if it helps. This tip is particularly helpful for writing questions.

Put a pin in it

Some questions might have you stumped! Don't spend too long on one question. If a question is taking too long, just mark it and move on. Use a symbol that is easy to recognize so you can return to that answer later (maybe a star, asterisk, or circle). When you're done answering the other questions, return to the marked questions and answer them to the best of your ability.

Multiple Choice Questions - Key takeaways

  • A multiple choice question is a question with a list of several possible answers to choose from. Multiple choice questions ask you to choose the correct answer out of that list.
  • In English exams, questions are structured with three defining features: the stimulus passage, the question, and the list of possible answers.
  • Your job is to choose the most correct answer. There will only be one. The rest of the answers are distractors.
  • There are two primary types of multiple choice questions in an English language exam: reading questions and writing questions.
  • When taking a multiple choice exam, be prepared. Practice with exam questions and try to make sure you take about one minute to answer each question.

References

  1. Jennifer Lackey, "My college student's transformation provides best argument for abolishing death penalty," USA Today, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions about Multiple Choice Questions

multiple choice question is a question with a list of several possible answers to choose from. Multiple choice questions ask you to choose the correct answer out of that list. 

To answer multiple choice questions, focus on choosing the most correct answer. Read and annotate the stimulus passage, read the background information, find what fits, and return later to any questions that have you stumped. 

The advantages of multiple choice questions are that they take less time than essay questions, they offer more than one possible answer, and they allow you to play to your strengths.

The disadvantages of multiple choice questions are that they contain distractors to confuse you and the answer choices can seem overwhelming.

To prepare for a multiple choice exam, practice with exam questions and try to make sure you take about one minute to answer each question. 

Final Multiple Choice Questions Quiz

Question

What is a multiple choice question? 

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Answer

A multiple choice question is a question with a list of several possible answers to choose from. Multiple choice questions ask you to choose the correct answer out of that list.

Show question

Question

What is the stimulus passage of a multiple choice question?

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Answer

The stimulus passage is an excerpt from a text used to answer a multiple choice question. The questions answered are based on the stimulus passage. 

Show question

Question

What are the three defining features that structure a multiple choice question? 

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Answer

stimulus passage

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Question

In an English language exam, what type of text does the stimulus passage come from?

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Answer

nonfiction

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Question

True or false:

Multiple choice questions are sometimes written in the form of a statement. 

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Answer

True! These types of questions ask the test-taker to finish the statement from the list of possible answers.

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Question

What are distractors

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Answer

Distractors are answers that are meant to distract from the correct answer. They may sound right or be close to correct to make the test-taker second-guess themselves.

Show question

Question

Which of the following phrases would best introduce the writer's claim that government is beholden to the people in lines 14-15?  


What type of writing question is this?

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Answer

introduction

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Question

How can one avoid getting confused by distractors? 

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Answer

One can avoid getting confused by distractors by focusing on choosing the most correct answer.

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What are some of the advantages of multiple choice questions?

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Answer

They take less time than essay answers.

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What are some of the disadvantages of multiple choice questions? 

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Answer

They use distractors to trick the test-taker.

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How can a test-taker avoid getting overwhelmed by multiple choice questions?

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Answer

take each question one at a time

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What are rhetorical choices?

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Answer

Rhetorical choices are the decisions a writer makes to convey meaning and have an effect on the reader.

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Question

Who is the author of this passage writing for?


What type of reading question is this?


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Answer

audience

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Question

In lines 5-10, the author’s point about the relationship between government and citizens is ______.


What type of reading question is this?

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Answer

claims

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Question

The writer includes statistics on whaling in lines 3-5 to _____.


What type of reading question is this?

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Answer

evidence

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Question

Finish the following statement: 

Writing questions ask you to read like _____.

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Answer

a writer

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Question

True or False:

When reading a stimulus passage, one does not need to do anything but read.

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Answer

False. One should also mark key passages, annotate, and write their thoughts on the writer's choices.

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Question

True or False:

One should read the background information of a stimulus passage for context.

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Answer

True! Background information can help with understanding the writer's meaning and wording.

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Question

About how long should one spend on each multiple choice question? 

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Answer

One minute

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Question

The writer wants to add a sentence at the beginning of paragraph 3 to contrast the main idea of paragraph 2. Which of the following choices best accomplishes this goal? 


What type of writing question is this?

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Answer

organization

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Question

FIll in the blank with the missing step to the process of elimination:

1: Read and re-read the question

2. 
3. Scan every answer option

4. Take away wrong answers

5. Select best answer


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Answer

Answer it first in your mind

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Which of the following best describes an absolute?

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Answer

A word that communicates something is 100 percent, without exception

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What is the danger of not reading every answer choice in a multiple choice question?

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Answer

It's possible you could miss an even better response than the one you've selected.

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_____________ is a logical approach that uses process of elimination to draw a conclusion.

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Answer

Deductive reasoning

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Why is it a good idea to answer a multiple choice question in your mind first?

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Answer

So you won't be influenced by incorrect choices

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Question

How can you use topic sentences to answer multiple choice questions that test reading comprehension?

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Answer

Use topic sentences to find context and important details about the passage.

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Question

If you have to guess on a multiple choice question, but you're able to eliminate one of the four answer possibilities, what are your chances of guessing correctly?

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Answer

33%

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________ is an answer choice with extreme or unrelated information, and is a choice that you can safely eliminate. 

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Answer

An outlier

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What should you do if you've tried the steps in the process of elimination and still don't know the correct answer?

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Answer

Skip the question and come back to it before your time is up, or take your best guess.

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Which multiple choice strategy inserts each answer choice into the sentence or problem to see which makes the most sence?

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Answer

Plug it in

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What is active reading?

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Answer

Active reading is the act of engaging with a text while reading it for a specific purpose.

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What is the difference between active and passive reading?

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Answer

Active readers are focused on the text and directly interact with it through strategies like underlining. Passive readers are unfocused and do not interact with the text. 

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Question

Which of the following is something an active reader would not do?


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Answer

Skip over unknown words in the text.

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Question

Which of the following is an active reading strategy?


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Answer

Summarizing

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What are the four steps of active reading?

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Answer

1. Preview the text 

2. Actively read and annotate the text 

3. Recall

4. Review

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Question

What should readers identify before choosing an active reading strategy?


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Answer

The goal of the reading. 

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Question

A student has to read sixty pages from a textbook. Which of the following strategies should she use?


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Answer

All of the above

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What is chunking?

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Answer

Chunking is an active reading strategy in which readers read small sections of the text at a time and review each one to ensure they understand the text as they go along. 

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True or False: Passive readers ask themselves questions to make sure they understood what they read. 

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Answer

False. This is something active readers do. Passive readers do not engage with the text. 

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Question

What does it mean to preview a text?

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Answer

Previewing refers to skimming over a text before reading it and noting the headings, subheadings, or chapter titles. 

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What is context?

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Answer

Context is is the set of facts and circumstances that surround a word or phrase in a text. 

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Question

Fill in the blank: 

Context sometimes changes the _______ of words.

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Answer

meaning

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Question

If one looks at the words, phrases, and sentences surrounding a word in a text to understand its meaning, this is an example of using what type of context?

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Answer

immediate context

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Question

Broad context includes which of the following considerations?

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Answer

historical

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True or False:

One should consider both immediate and broad contexts when answering a words in context question.

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Answer

True! Both immediate and broad contexts can affect the meaning of a word.

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What is a reference passage

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Answer

A reference passage is the passage of text a question refers to. It appears before each set of multiple questions. 

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A multiple choice question asks the test taker to choose the best word from a list of choices to replace a word from the reference passage. Is this an example of a words in context question?

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Answer

Yes

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A multiple choice question asks the test taker to rearrange a sentence from a passage so that it is grammatically correct. Is this an example of a words in context question?

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Answer

No

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Question

A multiple choice question  asks about the meaning of a specific word from the reference passage. Is this an example of a words in context question?


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Answer

Yes

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A multiple choice question asks the test taker to determine the purpose of a piece of evidence in the reference passage. Is this an example of a words in context question?

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Answer

No

Show question

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