Students often refer to trick questions. While writing exam questions, faculty do not refer to some items as trick questions but rather to some questions as difficult. Why are difficult questions perceived as being trick questions? The answer lies in individual perception.
In many cases, the exam writer will include answers that are almost correct to force the student to discern between two close answers. The rationale for including “trick” answers is to assure that students know the concept and are not merely recognizing a keyword in the answer. Since the answers are similar, many students feel tricked by the question.
The key to being successful at trick questions is to:
- Read the stem carefully
- Read all the answers carelessly
- Form an answer before reading the question
- Perform yoga on the day of the exam
Although this question may be silly, it demonstrates some elements of trick questions. First is making answers sound similar. The first two answers begin with “read” and end with words that rhyme. If one scans the answers, they might choose “b” reading carelessly as carefully. Rhyming words can be easily misread. In responses “c” and “d” form and perform rhyme, making those choices seem similar. This is a question that would be interpreted as being a trick question. Many similar answers are included to assure that the student is reading all the words in the answers.
Again, the key to trick questions is to look for similar answers. The chances are that one of these is the correct answer. The exam-writer included a distractor that was similar to throw you off — narrowing down the options to two increases your chance of being successful on the exam. Use trick questions to your advantage by looking for similar answers and then reding the answers carefully.