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Comparative Validity of Multiple-Choice and Free-Response Items on the Advanced Placement Examination in Biology

Bridgeman, Brent
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Board, Advanced Placement Examinations, Biology, Comparative Testing, Constructed Responses, Multiple Choice Tests, Test Format, Test Validity


The Advanced Placement (AP) Program reports grades to students and colleges on a 1-to-5-point scale derived by combining the separate scores on the multiple-choice and free-response sections of AP Examinations. Predictions of grades in first-semester college biology courses were based on students' separate performances on the multiple-choice and essay portions of the Advanced Placement Examination in Biology. In a sample of 432 students from 11 colleges, the multiple-choice scores appeared to be more closely correlated to college grades. However, when analyses were run separately according to the gender of the candidate, performance on both the objective and the essay items predicted grades equally well for males (r (the correlation coefficient pooled across colleges)=.44 for the objective items and .46 for the essay section), whereas for females, predictions based on the essay portion were significantly less accurate (.49 versus .29 ). The current practice of reporting AP grades based on a combination of both essay and multiple-choice test scores yields correlations that are generally higher and more comparable across gender than would be the case if only essays were used. (20pp.)

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