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Dissecting Multiple Choice Questions

Dissecting Multiple Choice Questions | April Merritt | Exam Preparation Blog | 1/11/2010


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Multiple Choice QuestionsUnderstanding how multiple choice questions are created can benefit you as a candidate by making an exam seem less confusing and scary when you first open it up. You’re more prepared for the questions and can put more focus into the content rather than trying to understand how questions are set up.

All of the ACE certification exams – Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, and Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist - are multiple-choice question based. The written simulation for the personal trainer exam can be considered the one, kinda sorta, exception to this statement. I prefer to call the written simulation an ‘extended multiple choice’ exam. But, back to the topic of this post…

A multiple-choice question always consists of a stem (the main part of the question) and the responses. The stem could be a direct question, an incomplete statement or a best answer format question.  For example:

  • What muscle extends the knee? (direct question)
  • The order of fitness testing is… (incomplete statement)
  • Which listed muscle would be most effective in strengthening the hip flexors? (best answer format, frequently seen in ACE exams)

When looking at the stem of the question, look for key words or fragments. Take a second and say…’what is the question really asking here?’ Can you answer that before you move on? Some people recommend covering the responses, then trying to answer the stem before you even look at the responses.

 No matter what method you choose, remember not to assume something (a fact, theory, detail) that isn’t listed in the stem. But also don’t overcomplicate the stem – chose the simple interpretation.  The ‘Not a trick question’ blog entry talks some more about this.

The three major types of multiple-choice questions that show up on the ACE certification exams are recall, application, and analysis. For example:

What muscle flexes the shoulder joint?

Recall question, which assesses facts, terminology and comprehension of important principles. Candidates demonstrate their ability to remember information. This is what we refer to as the ‘memorize and regurgitate’ type of question. This type of question is most often seen with anatomy based questions.

Weight 160, height 5’6, age 45, Triceps measurement 16mm, supraillium measurement 25mm, thigh measurement 32mm, Based on the information above, what is Sarah’s body fat percentage?

Application question, which poses a problem or situation that you might encounter when working as a professional. These types of questions demand more than simple memorization of facts. ACE uses a lot of application type questions in the certification exams.

The food label provides this info…blah blah blah. What is the total amount and percentage of calories from fat in the entire bag?

Analysis question, which assess the ability to examine information and understand the relationship between its parts. These questions are based on a hypothetical situation and require integration of knowledge and decision making. There may not be as many analysis questions as application questions on the ACE certification exam, but analysis questions are where you are more likely to see math equations.

Understanding the types of questions you might run into on the ACE certification exam, can be the first step to answering confidently. As you go through the various questions/exam examples available, keep an eye on the types of questions being asked. Practice may not always make perfect, but it can make you more comfortable when your exam date arrives.

Questions? Ask one of the Education Consultants at 1-888-825-3636 x782.