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Is the first answer really always best?
For EVER I've read the advice that when taking multiple-choice exams (such as all of the PMI exams), your first choice is most often the correct answer. This has always bugged my 'over - thinking' habit.

Is this really true? Has anyone ever seen a study that examined this and shows that the majority of people's first choice of an answer in a multiple choice answer format is correct?

Personally, I pick one I like, then re-read the question to see if it fits, and if it doesn't I change YES CHANGE it breaking the "first choice rule.

Is there any validity to "your first choice is always best" on exams?

... 'doubting Dave.
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It's not true. The question choices are randomly assigned. Your exam will look different to the person next to you. Usually, there are two obviously wrong answers, and then two that are hard to differentiate the correct answer. I think what you are saying is sometimes it's best to go with your first "gut instinct" choice. I would support that view.
Hi Sante. I didn't word my question very well. I meant the first answer that you CHOOSE as being correct is most likely correct. I hear that all the time. I wonder if it's really true.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Mar 26, 2020 7:08 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hi David, there is evidence that one's first choice has a higher success rate, but I wouldn't rely on that in the exam.
Dave -

When I'm teaching PMP Prep classes I would counsel students against changing a high percentage of initial responses, but it comes down to what the nature of the question is.

If it is a foundational/memory type question or one of the usual "What's the best/first thing a PM should do?" questions then I'd go with the gut.

But if it requires calculations or analysis and the individual was rushing through it the first time around, then they could find that changing their answer is the right move if they made a careless mistake the first time.

This could also happen if there were some red herrings in the question body which cause them to fixate on the wrong answer due to rushing.

Kiron
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1 reply by David Maynard
Mar 25, 2020 6:17 PM
David Maynard
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Kiron, I always teach that same exact thing. But you see it the "your first choice is correct" so often, I wondered if it has ever been studied, or examined. Personally, I just don't believe it. But I saw it this morning when reviewing a brand new book on PMI certifications. I'd like to have a fact or two to throw at it!. :)
My response would be to know thyself. If you are a person with extensive project management experience then the first or intuitive answer has a high probability of being right. In athletics there is a belief in "mussel memory" in that your reaction may be quicker than your thought process. In reality your thought process bypasses your conscientiousness. I believe your brain can work much the same - the answer bypasses your conscientiousness. The better you are at a sport the more you can rely on mussel memory. The better you know a subject the more you can rely on your intuition.
As a novices stick to logic.
Mar 25, 2020 5:30 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
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Dave -

When I'm teaching PMP Prep classes I would counsel students against changing a high percentage of initial responses, but it comes down to what the nature of the question is.

If it is a foundational/memory type question or one of the usual "What's the best/first thing a PM should do?" questions then I'd go with the gut.

But if it requires calculations or analysis and the individual was rushing through it the first time around, then they could find that changing their answer is the right move if they made a careless mistake the first time.

This could also happen if there were some red herrings in the question body which cause them to fixate on the wrong answer due to rushing.

Kiron
Kiron, I always teach that same exact thing. But you see it the "your first choice is correct" so often, I wondered if it has ever been studied, or examined. Personally, I just don't believe it. But I saw it this morning when reviewing a brand new book on PMI certifications. I'd like to have a fact or two to throw at it!. :)
...
1 reply by Kiron Bondale
Mar 26, 2020 7:51 AM
Kiron Bondale
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As instructors we have some ability to get this data. You could follow up with the candidates from a recent class after they've written the exam to ask them for a guess-timate on how many questions they changed from their initial response based on a 2nd (or 3rd) pass. While it is not likely to be accurate, it will probably give you a reasonable sense as to the magnitude of the behavior...

Kiron
David

I am not sure if this is true or not but I heard the total opposite that it is usually D that is the correct answer. I never go by this, I go with my gut and what I feel is right.

RK
I'm having trouble saying this correctly. I blame it on all the news I've been watching...

Lots of exam preparation books say that after you've read the question and all four potentially correct answers - the one that appeals to you *FIRST* is most often correct.

Clearly PMI randomizes the answers and the questions. Its a simple thing to do on a computerized test and it's likely done each time. Trying to find a pattern in that is crazy.

What I'm doubting is this idea (in many texts)

1) YOU READ THE QUESTION
2) YOU READ THE POSSIBLE ANSWERS
3) THE ONE THAT YOU BELIEVE TO BE CORRECT *FIRST* IS MOST OFTEN THE CORRECT ANSWER

I read it again this afternoon in a well-published exam prep book. I just don't believe it and I see this all the time, I hear teachers say it often. It seems to be "common (tribal?) knowledge." Personally, I like to examine each of the possible answers several different ways (different angles) before picking what I think is correct.

I'm wondering if there is any study that supports this "first choice" theory.

NOTE: I DON'T MEAN THE FIRST CHOICE AS IN A, B, C OR D. I MEAN THE FIRST CHOICE THAT 'APPEALS' TO YOU - WITHOUT ANALYSIS OR DEEPER THOUGHT.

whew
It would be interesting to know if there is any study or statistic to prove that your first choice is often the better/correct one. My opinion is that it probably is because as humans our nature is to overthink when we rethink. If you have made an initial choice and you go back on it you create doubt in your own mind.

But there are times when it does make sense to change your initial choice. I have often found that another question later on in a test clarifies an earlier question and then I would go back and change if my response was not inline with the clarification.
Dear David,

Interesting enough when going through the PMChallenge on the projectmanagement website I applied this approach to see if it was indeed true.

My non scientific approach found that that on more than average my first answer was the more correct then rereading the questions and possible answers and then deciding.

Also I used an applied logic and ruled in what possible answers their could be and normal it was a 50/50 choice between two answers.

As for why the first answer is the 'more' correct answer one theory is about how your brain works in that it has subconsciously processes the information and matches the answer without you even being aware of this process.

However I am sure someone has performed a study somewhere and they maybe able to give you a more scientific answer.

Daire
Mar 25, 2020 6:17 PM
Replying to David Maynard
...
Kiron, I always teach that same exact thing. But you see it the "your first choice is correct" so often, I wondered if it has ever been studied, or examined. Personally, I just don't believe it. But I saw it this morning when reviewing a brand new book on PMI certifications. I'd like to have a fact or two to throw at it!. :)
As instructors we have some ability to get this data. You could follow up with the candidates from a recent class after they've written the exam to ask them for a guess-timate on how many questions they changed from their initial response based on a 2nd (or 3rd) pass. While it is not likely to be accurate, it will probably give you a reasonable sense as to the magnitude of the behavior...

Kiron
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