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Multiple-Choice Questions and Student Characteristics

Alker, Henry A.; Carlson, Julia A.; Hermann, Margaret G.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
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Subject/Key Words:
Achievement Tests Aptitude Tests Multiple Choice Tests National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Student Characteristics Test Bias Test Items


Multiple-choice aptitude and achievement questions have been criticized for penalizing the highly able student while rewarding the less able one. This paper reviews previous attempts to examine this criticism and presents original research designed to expand the ways of testing the critics' proposal. The research explored relationships between performance on multiple-choice questions and characteristics which the critics suggest differentiate students who are rewarded from those who are penalized. Subjects were 108 undergraduate males. The characteristics examined were: creativity, nonconformity, ability to recognize ambiguity, preference for complexity, and test-wiseness. Analyses of the data for the total group of subjects and for various subgroups supported some, but not all, of the critics' claims and suggested the need for reformulating arguments concerning multiple-choice assessment.

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