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The Effect of Essay Tests on Student Motivation

French, John Winslow, 1918-
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Essay Tests, Expectation, Objective Tests, Student Motivation, Writing (Composition)


At two public and two private schools, eleventh graders took an objective and an essay test of English composition in October. At two of these schools, the students were told they would take another objective test in January. At the other two schools, they were told they would take another essay test in January. Actually both kinds of tests were given in January to the students at all four schools. A questionnaire given to the students on the occasion of the January test revealed that only 14 per cent of the students did anything special to prepare themselves for the expected test. The test scores of all students in each school and those of the students claiming to have undertaken special study were analyzed. The school groups expecting an essay or objective test did not make consistently larger gains on the expected test than did the groups not expecting the test. The students who indicated that they prepared specially for the test did not make greater gains than those who failed to prepare themselves or those who did not expect the test. Because of uncontrolled factors this study was not sufficiently sensitive to detect small differences. However, it may safely be concluded that test score gains over the three-month period covered by the study were not influenced to any substantial extent by knowledge of the nature of the test that was coming.

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