Influence of Irrelevant Speech on Standardized Test Performance

Powers, Donald E.; Albertson, Wendy; Florek, Thomas; Johnson, Kathy; Malak, John; Nemceff, Bill; Porzuc, Mark; Silvester, Donna; Wang, Minhwei; Weston, Richard; Winner, Edward; Zelazny, Aleksander
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Distraction standardized testing speaking tests test validity


The aims of this study were to (1) estimate the likely degree of any such distraction as well as its impact on test performance and (2) evaluate the prospects of reducing the distraction to a level that is acceptable to test takers. Study participants were volunteers (N = 171) who had previously taken the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test, or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). They were invited to retake a different form of the same test under either distracting conditions or standard, distraction-free conditions. To reduce distraction, some participants used either headsets or headsets plus masking noise. Attempts to reduce distraction to an acceptable level were largely unsuccessful. The impact on actual test performance, however, was slight in the GMAT sample and negligible in both the GRE and TOEFL samples. The conclusion was that intermingling examinees with others who are taking a speaking test remains a concern, primarily because of strong negative perceptions by test takers. More effective means need to be devised to reduce or control distraction.

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