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MCQs in Tropical Medicine

Rob Skelly DTM+H FRCP

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Home pageMCQ technique Paper 1 Paper 2 Paper 3 Paper 4 Paper 5 Answers Further reading Web resources

MCQ Technique
Most doctors trained in the UK are familiar with MCQ examinations and have developed their own examination technique. Those who have not taken this type of examination before may benefit from some advice.

Negative marking
The type of question used in both the MRCP part 1 and the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (DTM+H) are similar. Each question has 5 parts. Each part must be marked true or false. Each correct answer scores 1 mark and each incorrect answer scores minus 1. Unanswered questions score zero. This has been called "negative marking" and it often leads to negative thinking.

Negative thinking

Fear of giving wrong answers leads many candidates to answer too few questions. Remember that an absolute guess will be right as often as it is wrong. But a guess based on some background knowledge will be more often right than wrong. In other words it is best to follow your hunches.

How good are your guesses?

You can check this out by doing 20 questions, answering only those where you are sure of the answer. Before looking up the answers you can repeat the same 20 questions but this time make as many informed guesses as you can. Then look up the answers and see how you do using each technique. Most candidates score more highly when they make some guesses.

Key words

"Always" and "never". In medical exams statements containing either of these words are usually false. This is, of course, because there is often an exception to the rule. So guess false.
"Most" or "usually" means in at least 50% of cases.
"Commonly" is more ambiguous. An event that occurs in 0.01% of cases is clearly not a common event. An event that occurs in 30% or 50% of cases is common. But what about an event that occurs in 5% or 15% of cases? Examiners usually avoid the terms "common" and "rare" when these terms could be misinterpreted.

Computer answer sheets

In both the MRCP Part 1 and DTM+H exams answers have to be marked on computer-read answer sheets. It is best to mark your answers directly onto this sheet as you are answering the questions. Transferring all your answers to this sheet at the end of the exam is time consuming and not recommended at all. Candidates who run out of time whilst transferring their answers to the answer sheet usually fail the exam.


ALWAYS read the instructions carefully.
ALWAYS read the questions carefully.
ALWAYS pace yourself properly. Allow enough time to answer all the questions.
The broader and deeper your knowledge the better you will do.

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Copyright: Rob Skelly 2006