“Life is like a multiple-choice question. Sometimes it’s the choices that confuse you, not the question itself.” – Anonymous
How to Answer Multiple-Choice Questions
So you’ve registered to write the RE1 and RE5 examinations in order to comply with the requirements of the Financial Services Board. Now what? You know the papers are going to be tough, you know you need to study hard and you know that both exams are in the dreaded multiple-choice format.
These tips are designed to help you prepare yourself mentally for the exams and to face them confidently. The first thing you need to do is obvious: study. Work through all the study material and start at least 30 days before the examination. This will give you time to go through the content many times and understand it properly. Find a quiet place free from distractions to study. Try to find a time that suits you – for example, early in the morning or late at night – and make studying part of your normal schedule.
Ensure that you’re well rested before the exam. Don’t stay up late the night before cramming. Try to eat healthily while you’re studying and get as much exercise as you can – it will provide a much-needed break to staring at your books and will help prevent fatigue. It’s also important to stay calm before and during the exam as your mind cannot function optimally when you’re tense.
What You Need to Know
For both the RE1 and RE5 examinations, all the subject matter in your study material will be covered. The questions are randomly selected from a question bank. This means that two people may write the same examination, but will not receive the same questions. However, the complexity of the exams will be the same as the layout does not differ.
For RE5, there are 50 questions and you will have two hours to complete the exam. The pass mark for the exam is 65% or higher. This means you will have to get 33 out of 50 questions correct in order to pass.
For RE1, there are 80 questions and you will have two-and-a-half hours to complete the exam.
The pass mark for the exam is 65% or higher. This means you will need to get 52 out of 80 questions correct in order to pass the exam.
Tackling multiple-choice questions
The exam questions have been written in such a way as to test how you will execute your daily duties in your job. Some of these duties are routine tasks, but you will also need to apply certain thinking skills. The questions have been developed at four levels of thinking skills using Blooms Taxonomy, from lower-order thinking skills (testing your recall and comprehension of factual knowledge) to higher-order thinking skills (applying and analysing factual knowledge). Put simply, roughly a third of the exam will be easy, a third will be tricky and a third will be extremely difficult.
There are different types of multiple-choice questions. Some are close-ended where you merely need to choose the right answer. Some require you to complete a sentence, others are phrased using a negative question (be careful here to choose a negative answer), some use the most/best/least format, sequencing or Roman numerals, where more than one correct answer must be selected from a range of options.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the common denominator of all the different levels of questioning is factual knowledge. This means if you know your work well, you will be able to answer questions on any level.
When the exam begins, read through all the questions first without marking the correct answers. A good strategy is to start by answering the easier questions first and then move on to the longer, trickier ones. The easier questions are usually at the beginning and end of the exam paper, while the more difficult questions are found in the middle of the paper.
Another effective strategy is to eliminate the answers that are definitely wrong first. Usually two of the options are quite obviously wrong, which means that you’re left with two options to wrestle with (the 50/50 tug-of-war) and decide which one is right.
If the wording of a particular question is tricky or confusing, change it. For example, turn negatives into a positives if it will help you understand the question better. If unfamiliar terms are used, you can alter them too. For instance, change “the representative” to “I” or “the FSP” to the name of the brokerage you work for.
Remember, don’t worry if you don’t complete all the questions. It is still possible to pass even if you don’t finish the exam. But don’t leave any questions blank. If you don’t know the answer, guess. There is no negative marking, so rather pick an answer and stand a chance of being right.
If you’ve studied well and approach the exams with the right mental attitude, you’re sure to pass. Some of the questions are deliberately designed to trip you up, but if you concentrate on the questions that are easy to answer, you’ll be making wise use of your time and efforts. Good luck!