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Intermediate Exam Tips

Posted by Brady on Jul 19th 2018

I teach a lot of intermediate courses. The intermediate exams are very different than the Foundations exam. The Foundations exam is a 40 question multiple choice exam with a one hour time limit to complete the exam. The vast majority of the Foundations exam requires rote memorization of the topics and concepts you learn in the Foundations class.

The intermediate exams are not nearly as straightforward. The intermediate exams are 8 question multiple choice exams with a 90 minute timeline to complete the exam. This should tell you instantly that the intermediate exams are significantly tougher. The intermediate exams are all scenario based and gradient scale exams. This means that your answer you select for the question is based on some scenario. One of the trickiest parts of the intermediate exam is that all of the answers may be correct, but some answers are better than others and one answer is the best answer.

This best answer is worth 5 points because is fully answers the question and is related to the scenario presented. The second best answer is worth 3 points and is probably correct, but misses some subtle point that is present in the best answer. The third best answer is worth 1 point because some major concept is missing or it does not address the issue presented in the scenario. The least best answer is usually a distracting answer worth 0 points as it is totally unrelated to the scenario or the question being asked.

The following advice was emailed to me from a former student. I don't know who to attribute this to, but it is very good advice:

The answers are not long essays. Everything in the answer is relevant. The 5 point answer will be the most correct answer in the context of the question and the scenario. It is possible the apparent book answer may not be the best answer given the constraints imposed between scenario & question. Analyze each sentence or statement in each answer. There isn't anything in the answers that doesn't have a purpose (to be correct or to be wrong).

If you're taking a paper based exam, you can write in the test booklet & the scenario booklet. DO IT!

For online exams, you'll have a paper copy of the scenario booklet & scrap paper. Mark the scenarios! Write the key points about each answer on the supplied scrap paper instead (this is the technique I used successfully for my exams).

The 5-point answer will be the most correct

The 3-point answer will be close but differ in at least 1 if not 2 or 3 significant details

The 1-point answer will have only 1 or 2 correct details, the rest will be incorrect, out of order, considered wrong or an inappropriate authority, or may reference "facts" not evident form the scenario case-study

The 0-point answer will be totally off base with respect to the scenario or the question

There are 2 schools of thought with regard to analyzing the answers; both require a similar technique. Give the statement a +1 if it contributes to the solution, a -1 if it doesn't or detracts from the solution, and 0 if you're not sure about the statement. If you don't understand a statement, mark it with a ?. (again, this is the technique I used for my exams)

Count the number of obviously wrong statements in each question with the goal of identifying the detractor answers (the 0 and 1 point answers). Then make the best choice from the remaining 2 answers.

Count the number of correct statements and pick the one with the highest score. The 5 point answer typically will not have any minus points.

Sometimes the correct approach will be to eliminate the wrong choices and make the best selection from the ones that remain. Sometimes the approach will be to identify the 5-point answer directly. There isn't a one-size-fits-all guarantee. Sometimes the best approach will be to apply a combination of both methods.If you don't read the scenario or think that knowing what's in the core volumes is sufficient... it isn't! You're likely to run into at least 1 question on your examination where the perfect textbook answer is worth 3 points not 5 because of the conditions established in the scenario -- particularly on the MALC exam ran into this the 1st time I took it and took it into account the second & passed.

DOs & DON'Ts:

  • Do read the entire scenario
  • Don't read something into the scenario that isn't there
  • Do evaluate the every answer
  • Don't guess without applying sound analysis techniques
  • Don't assume the longest (or shortest) answer is the most correct
  • Don't assume the shortest answer is always the 1- or 0-point choice
  • Do evaluate every statement in each of the 4 answers.
  • Don't stop with 1 statement with the idea that because "this" is true, that you've found the 5-point answer. Something similar to that approach worked for the Foundation exam, not here!
  • Don't spend more than about 10 minutes on each question. This will give you 10 minutes to review your answers before the end of the test.

Questions are NOT linked; each question is independent & isolated. Even if two questions refer to the same scenario, do not base or change your answer for 1 question because of something in the other.

One more point that didn't fit in the reply above: Don't change an answer because you're second guessing yourself. Change it ONLY if you realize you misread something and your SURE the new selection is worth more points. Better than 60% of the time your first choice is likely to be the correct choice (unless as noted, you realize you missed something in your initial read/evaluation.