As a student taking the O-level Physics exams, you must familiarise yourself to the exam format. This can be easily done by looking into past years’ exam papers.

The O-level Physics exam consists mainly of two written papers and a practical exam. This article serves to highlight to students the importance of doing well in Paper 1, i.e. the Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), which most students tend to treat it too lightly.

Multiple Choice Questions are “easy” to most students because (i) they do not need to show working when solving the questions, (ii) the answer is already there (albeit 3 wrong ones and only 1 correct answer), and (iii) even if they do not know the correct answer, they can make rational “guesses” by eliminating out the wrong answers (although sometimes the correct answer got eliminated instead).

As a full-time Physics tutor of many years, I felt it my responsibility to sound this alarm – DON’T YOU EVER UNDERESTIMATE THE MCQs !

And my reasons are as follows.

Firstly, please realise that MCQs are the best way to test a student’s understanding of a particular Physics topic. The best MCQs are those whereby all 4 answers seem probable. And unless you have a clear and solid grasp of the concept behind the Physics topic, you’ll face a challenge deciding which is the correct answer because the other 3 given answers, though incorrect, all seemed probable to you. So, please take particular note of such MCQs when you practise the past-year papers, lest such similar questions do come out for your exam.

Secondly, the MCQ paper (Paper 1) is also a test of your speed. You’ll need to complete all 40 MCQs in the stipulated time given. This being the case, too much time spent on a MCQ will rob you of precious time for the other MCQs. Therefore, solve those MCQs that you are confident of quickly, so as to “buy” time for the tougher MCQs or those that you are not so sure about.

Thirdly, NEVER EVER incomplete the MCQ paper. Even if you encounter a tough MCQ question that you truly do not know how to solve, never ever leave it blank. Try to “guess” rationally what the answer might be by eliminating the improbable answers (hopefully when you are doing this, you do not eliminate the correct answer in the first place). For example, if you find that 2 of the answers are improbable and the remaining 2 answers are just as probable, by eliminating the 2 improbable answers, you have increased your probability of getting a correct “guess” to 50% instead of 25%. Personally, I would rather you know your Physics so well that you don’t have to play the tikam-tikam (guessing) game when it comes to MCQs.

Finally (and this is the part that I always highlight to my students), MCQs are the only paper (apart from Math) that you could score FULL MARKS if you are truly that good. For MCQs, a right answer is a right answer (even if you happened to guess it). There’s no room for subjectivity for the examiner as compared to descriptive answers in Paper 2. Therefore, always try to score the maximum 40 marks for your MCQ paper. That would translate to a 30% weightage for your overall Physics exam.

I hope my little article here has helped you see MCQs in its proper perspective; that it is an important paper and not to be taken lightly. And that it can give you a huge advantage if you can get all the questions correct as there’s no subjectivity as far as the answers are concerned.