Exam preparation materials

The "Reverse” Multiple-Choice Question

The “reverse” multiple-choice question is easily identified by the words “EXCEPT” or “NOT" in all capital letters in the question or sentence stem. It basically asks you which of the five possible choices does not belong. Once you identify a “reverse” question, the best way to handle it is to ignore the “EXCEPT” or “NOT” marker. Then put an “X” through or cross out all of the answers that do belong. The one you're left with is correct. “Reverse” questions are very common and make up about ten percent of the multiple-choice section.

Example 1

1. Which of the following amendments to the Constitution was NOT part of the Bill of Rights?

A. Freedom of speech, press, and religion

B. Direct election of senators

C. Protection against illegal search

D. The right to bear arms

E. Trial by jury

The correct answer is B. The direct election of senators was provided for in the Seventeenth Amendment (1913). Prior to the amendment, senators were chosen by state legislatures (indirect election). All of the other choices were among the first ten amendments to the Constitution, effective in December 1791 and commonly known as the Bill of Rights.

Example 2

2. Which of the following statements about the American Federation of Labor (AFL) is NOT accurate?

A. The AFL was composed of skilled workers organized by craft.

B. The AFL used strikes to achieve its goals.

C. The AFL opposed restrictions on immigration into the United States.

D. The AFL was the largest union in the country at the end of the nineteenth century.

E. The AFL supported the closed shop.

The correct answer is C. Although Samuel Gompers, the leader of the AFL, was an immigrant himself, he and his union supported restrictions on immigration in the late nineteenth century allegedly to protect the jobs of American workers. All of the other choices accurately reflect the AFL’s program. This question also requires you to know the definition of the term “closed shop” — companies could hire only workers who belonged to the union.

Example 3

3. Progressives supported greater participation in the political process through all of the following EXCEPT

A. primary elections

B. recall

C. initiative and referendum

D. direct election of senators

E. city manager government

The correct answer is E. The city manager government, where a professional administrator runs local government in accordance with the policies of elected officials, reflects the Progressives’ emphasis on efficiency. But since the city manager is appointed, this is not an example of greater public participation in the political process.

Example 4

4. Which of the following writers is NOT considered part of the “Lost Generation”?

A. Langston Hughes

B. F. Scott Fitzgerald

C. Ernest Hemingway

D. e. e. cummings

E. Gertrude Stein

The correct answer is A. This question is similar to the first example given on the Great Awakening — identify an individual with a movement or event. Four of the writers listed — Fitzgerald, Hemingway, cummings, and Stein — are associated with the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s; indeed, Gertrude Stein coined the phrase. Langston Hughes, an African-American writer, was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Example 5

5. All of the following are important to understanding U.S. foreign policy from 1945 to 1970 EXCEPT

A. brinksmanship


C. containment policy

D. Marshall Plan

E. McCarthyism

The correct answer is E. Although Senator Joseph McCarthy’s campaign against alleged Communists in the government certainly reflected concerns raised by the Cold War, it had little to do with U.S. foreign policy given your other choices.

Example 6

A variant of the “reverse” multiple-choice question uses the word “LEAST,” again in all capital letters. It isn't as common as the other markers. “LEAST” questions often relate to the causes/consequences of an event or the character of a period in U.S. history. Let’s use U.S. post-World War II foreign policy again for an example.

6. During the period from 1945 to 1970, U.S. foreign policy planners were LEAST concerned with

A. containing Soviet expansion

B. trade imbalances between the United States and Japan

C. Cuba’s support for guerilla movements in Latin America

D. wars of national liberation in Southeast Asia

E. military conflicts in the Middle East

The correct answer is B. International trade didn’t become an important foreign policy concern until the 1980s. All of the other choices were major foreign policy issues during the Cold War.

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