Question Digestion: A Guide to Breaking Down Step Questions
Developing a question-taking strategy is a key component to success on test day. Here is a general outline for approaching each and every question you come across, Step or otherwise.
Step 1: Read the Question
Find the sentence with the question mark after it (called the Lead-In), and read it thoroughly. It is easy to get lost in the jungle of a question stem or vignette. Picking out the question is akin to grabbing a compass before you head out into the woods for a camping trip. You always know your true north, i.e., where the question stem is headed.
Step 2: Skim the Answer Choices
Don’t read through a novel of a question stem with an answer in mind, only to find that it doesn’t exist in the choices below. Skimming over the answer choices tempers your expectations as you begin to process the information that will lead you to the right answer.
Step 3: Scrutinize the Stem
Question stems can be arduous and long, but in the end, they contain the answers you so desperately seek. Luckily, by this point, you already know what the question is, and you have a vague understanding of the options, so you’re well on your way to picking out the relevant details.
Step 4: Eliminate and Choose
At the end of the day, you have to choose an answer from the options presented to you. The right answer isn’t always immediately apparent. In many cases, the most obvious thing to do is eliminate answer choices you know can’t be right. Ideally, you should do this as you read the stem with the answer choices in mind, but it never hurts to delve back into the stem to find information that clearly conflicts with certain answers. When you finally settle on an answer, it should not be clearly in opposition to any information presented in the stem.