Posted on

Exam question skills – multiple choice papers


Tips for success in exam question skills.

Exam question skills are essential for making the most of your opportunity on the big day. When you’ve worked so hard on your revision it would be such a shame to miss out on easy marks. Become familiar with how multiple choice exams work. Utilising a few key exam question skills will help you make the most of your knowledge.

Getting started…

Start by reading the end of the question first, this is often where the real question is. Once you know what you are looking for, read the question from the top. Look for the details you need and ignoring any red herrings or superfluous information.

Try this question:

You can see how the actual question is at the end of the text. Reading this first and then going back to the beginning is an efficient way of looking at the question. You are reading it already knowing exactly what you are looking for. If you read the question in order,  you would need to read it a second time. This method will save you time overall and is probably one of the most important exam question skills.

But do make sure you always read the entire question. The answer may seem to be in the first few lines, but if you read on you may discover more. Perhaps the offence is incomplete, or the offender has a defence for his actions.

What next?

  • Answer the question in your mind before looking at the answer choices.
  • Then, having decided on your answer, read every answer choice, eliminating any you know to be definitely wrong. Even if you see what you think is the right answer straight away,
  • You have already answered the question in your mind, and eliminated wrong answers, so choose the best answer from those that remain.

If you knew the answer straight away, that’s great. If not, you may have been able to rule some of the answers out before making an educated guess.  To be left with what is correct, sometimes you just need to know what answers are wrong.

So while we are here, let’s talk about the right and wrong answers to this question.

The offence can’t be “Making a threat to kill” as this does not apply to an unborn child. Had Mr Rogers threatened to kill the child upon its birth this would have been a different matter.

We can rule out “Possession with intent to endanger life” because Mr Rogers has an imitation. Even if you are not sure of the legislation, common sense tells us that you cannot intend to endanger life with an item that does not endanger life!

And finally, we can ignore “Having an imitation firearm in a Public place”, because My Rogers has a lawful excuse.

With those answers aside, it leaves us with the correct answer of “False imprisonment” – unlawful restraint of a persons freedom of movement.

What about the more complex questions?

This is where writing on the exam paper can be a life saver. If you are allowed to write on the paper, you can cross out any information that is wrong, leaving you with a much simpler question. Take this question for instance:

I hope you started by reading the last part of the question first!!

If you’re not super confident on relevant time then a question like this can be really daunting. But we can instantly simplify it.

The relevant time is the time of arrival at the first station where he is wanted or, if arrested outside of England/Wales, 24 hours after entry into England/Wales (or sooner if they arrive at the station before the 24 hours is up). So the information we are looking for is when they entered England. The question clearly states that they entered England at 1pm on Tuesday.  The relevant time is 24 hours after entering England/Wales (or sooner if they arrive at the station where he is wanted before the 24 hours is up).

So to save getting confused, let’s write on the question, get rid of everything we don’t need and highlight what we do.

Now the question seems much simpler. Check your understanding by answering it here:

What if I get stuck?

Move on and return to the question later.  There are likely to be several questions you are unsure of and it would be a huge shame to waste time trying to work them out and not finish the exam, especially as there could be a dozen unfinished questions at the end of the exam that would have been easy for you if you had just got to them. 

Leave questions you are unsure of and come back to them at the end. If you still have time left, you can now share this between the remaining questions, starting with the ones you think are easier. But never leave any blank, if there is little time at the end then simply guess.  If there is no negative marking (marks taken away for wrong answers), you shouldn’t be handling in an unfinished paper.

But make sure you read the tricky question before leaving it to come back to later. There are two good reasons for this. 

  1. Your subconscious mind will be working away on it, so you may find the answer comes to mind more easily when you return to the question.
  2. You may get a clue to an earlier question you were stuck on from a question later on in the exam. 

Should I change my answers?

Research supports changing answers if you think your original one was wrong. This is particularly effective when you return to questions at the end of the exam. Your subconscious mind has been working on them and when you return to questions you weren’t sure about, that extra time your brain has spent processing it often leads to a better answer.

So if you think your original answer was wrong, it could be prudent to change it.

What if I don’t have a clue?

If you are guessing with absolutely no idea what to choose, there is an exam question skills strategy you can use. It may squeeze and extra mark or two out of the exam for you! One piece of work that examined 100 tests (2,456 questions in total), from varied American sources, found some useful statistical patterns.

  • The answers “none of the above” or “all of the above” were correct 52% of the time. 
  • The longest answer on multiple-choice tests was usually correct. 
  • Correct answer choices hardly repeated consecutively. (E.g., If your last correct answer was [A], the next one is less likely to also be [A]).
  • There is a slightly higher chance that answer choice [B] is correct when the question has 4 answer choices.

These don’t provide guarantees, but it may be better than a completely random guess if you have no clue at all!


Make sure you use all these exam question skills as you work through your paper. Take your time and read the questions carefully. This is where all your hard work pays off. And make sure you are completely familiar with the NPPF exam rules. You’ll find everything you need to know at the College of Policing here.

Good luck!! 🍀

Posted on

Making flash cards – 60 second video

Flash cards

Vido transcript –

Flash cards are the perfect way to utilise active recall in your study. Whilst there are plenty of places online to download pre-made flash cards, the best method is to make your own as making them becomes part of the learning process itself. Grab yourself a pack of blank cards and get started.

Write the question on the front of the card – keep it to just one simple question. With only one on each card you’ll probably end up with lots of cards, but that’s fine.

Write the answer on the back. Don’t forget, we remember pictures better than words so focus on images in your answer, but do add a few words to the image for the greatest effect. 

Mnemonics are really helpful too. These are patterns of letters, ideas, or associations which assist in remembering something. For example, if I was trying to remember the wives of Henry the VIII in the correct order, my flash card answer would look like this:

So in summary, one simple question on the front with a clear answer on the back that uses images and just a few words. 

Posted on

Pomodoro Technique – 60 second video

pomodoro technique

Video transcript – 

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique developed by Francisco Cirilo. It involves using a timer to break down work into 25 minute long intervals, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for a tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student. Using this technique is a great way to help you focus on your study.

Here’s how it works:

  • Choose a task
  • Set the alarm for 25 minutes
  • Work on the taskTake a short break – maybe 5 minutes
  • Start again
  • Every 4 rounds take a longer break – maybe 30 minutes

If you become distracted whilst you are working, or realise you have something else to do, write it down on a piece of paper and come back to it later when your 25 minutes of focus is over.

This is a great way to study, especially if you start each pomodoro by recalling what you learnt in the previous one. Trying to recall what you have previously learnt is a great way to consolidate the memory and the pomodoro technique helps you develop a laser sharp focus.

Posted on

Sleep and memory – 60 second video

sleep and memory

Video transcript – 

Lack of sleep impairs reasoning, problem solving and attention to detail. Not only does a good nights sleep address these problems but it is an important part of remembering information too. 

In one study 2 groups of students were given a list of unrelated paired words to remember such as “elephant/glass” and “star/ladder”. One group was given the list in the morning and tested 12 hours later in the evening. The other group was given the list in the evening and tested 12 hours later in the morning after sleep. An increase in 20.6% in memory was found in the group that had slept. It seems that declarative memory (that’s remembering facts and information), improves if you sleep on it.

And one study showed that napping for 45-60 minutes after memorising word pairs could significantly improve memory.

Research also tells us that it is probably best to sleep about 3 hours after learning for the best rewards. So if you are learning during the day, try and take a nap or recap a few hours before bed to reap the rewards of sleep consolidated memory.

Posted on

Environment and memory – 60 second video

Environment and memory

Video transcript – 

A memory experiment was conducted on a beach. Participants were asked to memorise a list of words in two conditions: one on dry land and the other while scuba diving. The next day, they were asked to recall all the words. The words learned underwater were better remembered underwater and words memorised on dry land were more accurately remembered on dry land. There was around a 50% better recall when the learning and recall environment were the same. Other studies have shown similar results and suggest that the more your study and test environments are the same, the better your memory is.

It seems that novel smells might play a role in memory too. Perhaps because the part of the brain that first processes smell is connected to the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory. If you use a distinctive, unfamiliar smell when you study, smelling that same odour during an exam may help you remember more information than without the odour.

So when you study, try and keep your study environment, smell and noises as similar to the real exam environment as possible. 

Posted on

Flavonoids and memory – 6o second video


Video transcript –

Flavonoids are a group of natural substances that are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, tea and (best of all!!!) wine. They have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Evidence suggests that flavonoids found in fruits have the capacity to improve memory and the effects of blueberry and blackberry appear to be most pronounced in terms of short-term memory. In one study people aged between 18 and 30 were given a smoothie before doing tests of their mental acuity. Everyone’s brainpower dipped in the afternoon, but after five hours it was 15 to 20 per cent higher if the smoothie they drank had contained 200g of blueberries. 

Flavonoids are thought to increase blood flow to the brain and interact with signal pathways that are crucial to brain cell survival and growth. The changes they cause may help at the vital stage where a nerve impulse is converted into a lasting memory.

But make sure you buy fresh and eat the berries quickly because the chemicals break down over time.

Posted on

Exercise and memory – 6o second video

Exercise and memory

Video transcript –

Synapses are the connections between the neurons in your brain. Chemical and electrical signals pass across the synapses from cell to cell and the stronger the messages between your neurons, the stronger and more permanent your memories will be. Whilst repeating an action tends to make the signal between the cells stronger, stress can weaken your brains ability to retain information. 

It turns out that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Exercising can mean that you retain information even under stressful conditions. As little as a 10-minute walk may be enough to increase the way your brain communicates between its regions and to enhance your ability to learn and remember. Exercise can also stimulate the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.

So when you are studying or preparing for an exam, make sure you plan regular exercise into your schedule. 

Posted on

Speed reading – 6o second video

Speed reading

Video transcript –

Most people read about 250 words per minute. But a few simple techniques can quickly double that speed for you. 
When we read we are slowed down for several reasons. First, your eyes do not move continuously along a line of text, instead, they make short, rapid movements with short stops. During these movements   your vision is suppressed, and you are effectively “blind”. To reduce this, use your finger, a pen or a bookmark to follow along the line as your read. This alone will increase your reading speed. 

Secondly, don’t go all the way to the margins. Start several words in, and finish several words before the end. You can increase this distance over time with practice. Try using a “Shultz table (there’s link in the notes below) to improve.

Finally, if you hear the words in your head as your read, you are limited to 400 words a minute. Reducing your “ internal voice” will make a noticeable improvement.

But be warned, faster reading doesn’t necessarily mean deep understanding, but it can certainly help you cover more ground to find the important details in a textbook.

Posted on

Learning with images – 6o second video

Video transcript –

Your brain can make sense of images in as few as 13 milliseconds. And like the saying goes, “a picture paints a thousand words.” 

In one study, university students were asked to listen to statements that were completely new to them. Half of the participants were instructed to rate how easy the statements were to pronounce – which forced them to focus on the auditory element. The other half rated how easy it was to form a mental image of the statement – which forced them to focus on images. The students then answered a series of questions about the statements. Results showed that the group prompted to visualize the statements answered the questions two times more accurately than the group that focused on the auditory information.

So it seems that learning words is easier when you use an image. Try remembering these words: trees, hammock, cat, balloon. They are easily forgotten, but an image like this makes them easy to remember. And the more bizarre, or distinct the image you use, the more likely you are to recall it.

 Always include images when you study, you can remember information more quickly and more accurately this way.

Cuevas, J., & Dawson, B. L. (2017). A test of two alternative cognitive processing models: Learning styles and dual coding. Theory and Research in Education, 1-21.

Posted on

Memory and choline – 6o second video

Choline and memory

Video transcript –

Choline is a chemical plays a key role in memory, learning and our ability to think. It is used to make the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, which helps brain cells communicate with each other, keeps memories intact and is responsible for memory recall. Acetylcholine is involved in several stages of memory, especially the encoding of new memories and learning. It’s also involved in sustaining attention and helping us focus. 
Your body is able to synthesise small amounts of choline in your liver but most comes from your diet. 

Choline is found in a wide variety of foods including eggs, milk products, beef liver, cod, and chicken. There are vegan and vegetarian-friendly sources including quinoa, cauliflower, tofu, broccoli, spinach, and almonds. 

The recommended daily allowance of Choline is 425mg per day for women and 550mg per day for men. 2 egg yolks will contain about 300mg of choline. Keeping up your choline intake should boost your ability to learn and store new memories.