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A Comparison of Multiple-Choice and Constructed Figural Response Items

Martinez, Michael E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Constructed-Response Tests, Figural Response Items, Graphs, Item Analysis, Multiple Choice Items, Test Construction, Test Format


In contrast to multiple-choice test questions, figural response items call for constructed responses and rely upon figural material, such as illustrations and graphs, as the response medium. Figural response questions in various science domains were created and administered to a sample of 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-grade students. Item and test statistics from parallel sets of figural response and multiple-choice questions were compared. Figural response items were generally more difficult, especially for questions that were difficult (p<5) in their constructed-response forms. Figural response questions were also slightly more discriminating and reliable than their multiple-choice counterparts, but had higher omit rates. The paper addresses the relevance of guessing to figural response items and the diagnostic value of the item type. Plans for future research on figural response items are discussed. (38pp.)

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