Preparing for the WQE

Sample Questions

All questions in the Written Qualifying Examination are single one best answer questions. This is the traditional, most frequently used multiple-choice format. It consists of a statement or question followed by four options that are in alphabetical or logical order. The response options in this format are lettered (eg, A, B, C, D).

Examinees are required to select the best answer to the question. Other options may be partially correct, but there is only ONE BEST answer.

Strategies for Answering Single One Best Answer Test Questions

  • Read each question carefully. It is important to understand what is being asked.
  • Try to generate an answer and then look for it in the option list.
  • Alternatively, read each option carefully, eliminating those that are clearly incorrect.
  • Of the remaining options, select the one that is most correct.
  • If unsure about an answer, it is better to guess since unanswered questions are automatically counted as wrong. No points will be subtracted for incorrect responses.

Sample Question 1

Which of the following factors is most important when deciding to drain subretinal fluid during scleral buckling surgery?

a) Bullous retinal elevation in the inferior temporal quadrant
b) Macular detachment
c) A previous surgical failure
d) The retinal break can be approximated to a buckle

Sample Question 2

Three weeks ago, the parents of a 2 1/2-year-old girl noticed intermittent esotropia in the child's right eye. Examination reveals 20 prism diopters of esotropia at 6 1/3 m. Which of the following is the most appropriate initial therapy?

a) Alternate occlusion
b) Base-out, 10 PD Fresnel prisms on plano spectacles
c) Recession of the medical rectus muscles
d) Spectacles for correction of hyperopia

Test-Taking Tips 


  • Review examination materials over a prolonged period of time, focusing on small portions each day. Thoroughly review one topic at a time. For example, you may want to focus on the topic of optics and visual physiology for several days before moving on to another topic area.
  • Summarize critical concepts on topics that you have studied and review them until you feel you know these points well.
  • Take short and regularly scheduled study breaks to allow your mind to rest and comprehend your study materials.
  • Engage in periodic oral quizzes with another person to evaluate your learning of each content area. This will indicate areas of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Make sure that you fully understand your test materials and familiarize yourself with the examination format. 


  • Wait to study until the day before your testing appointment. Last-minute efforts will only be retained in your short-term memory. Prolonged exposure promotes long-term retention.
  • Attempt to study late into the night when you normally would be resting. This only will yield diminished results and increased fatigue. Schedule your review for a time of day when your body and mind are alert.
  • Consume unhealthy food or drinks to stay awake. Excessive carbohydrates, caffeine, and sweets reduce your ability to focus. Eat nourishing snacks such as fruit, protein, and vegetables.
  • Worry! Preoccupation with negative thoughts saps time and energy from concentrated study.
  • Try to memorize everything you have studied. Instead, try to apply your knowledge beyond the basic facts and concepts that you have learned. For example, contemplate how you would treat a specific retinal condition (such as a retinal detachment) or how to diagnose a patient's condition based on your interpretation of a fundus photograph.

The following tips are offered by the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) as suggestions for taking the Written Qualifying Exam (WQE):

  • Be familiar with the test format so that you will know the type of questions that will appear on the test and how to answer them. Before taking the exam, make sure that you have taken the WQE Tutorial and Practice Test.
  • When starting the testing session, read the tutorial slowly and carefully. This portion of the test is not timed. If you do not understand the tutorial, ask the proctor to assist you.
  • When you begin your test, note how many items will appear in each section so that you will know how to pace yourself and budget your time efficiently.
  • If you get stuck on an item, move on to another item in that section, especially when time is a factor. Come back to the skipped questions later, if you have time.
  • Read each question carefully and briefly contemplate the answer. Then, read all of the answer choices provided. Discard answer choices you know are not correct before selecting the best answer.
  • Since there is no penalty for guessing the answer to a question you don't know, take an educated guess and select the best answer of the choices given.
  • You will do your best work on the exam if you stay focused and calm. If you start to feel anxious, take a moment to relax before resuming work on the test.
  • Work at a pace that is comfortable for you, and don't be distracted by other test takers or those finishing before you.
  • If you have time left after you have finished the test, you may wish to go back and make sure that you have answered all of the questions. Although you should be on the lookout for carelessness, it is best not to change answers unless you feel you misunderstood the question or accidently marked the wrong answer. Research shows that second guessing your first response and then changing the answer to a question is not always in your best interest.


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  • Flippo, R.F., Preparing Students for Testing and Doing Better in School. Corwin Press, CA., 2008, pp. 10-11.
  • Smith, L. The Effects of Confidence and Perception of Test- Taking Skills on Performance. North American Journal of Psychology: 2002, 4.1, pp. 37-51.
  • Stricker, L., Wilder, G.Z. Why Don't Test Takers Prepare for the Pre-Professional Skills Tests? Educational Assessment: Aug 2002, 8.3, pp. 259-77.
  • Zbornik, J. Strategies, Structure Can Improve Test Scores. What Works in Teaching & Learning: Apr 2006, 36.4, p. 9.