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A Comparison of Open-Ended and Multiple-Choice Question Formats for the Quantitative Section of the Graduate Record Examination GRE

Bridgeman, Brent
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Quantitative Tests, Free Response, Multiple Choice Items, Gender, Ethnicity


Free-response counterparts to a set of items from the quantitative section of the Graduate Record Examinations General Test were developed. Examinees responded to these items by gridding numerical answers on a machine-readable answer sheet in essentially the same way social security numbers are now gridded. In addition, the answer grid included special symbols for a negative sign (-), a decimal point (.), a division sign (/), and a variable (k). The test section with the special answer sheet was administered at the end of a regular GRE administration. Correct and incorrect answers chosen in the multiple-choice format were compared with the answers generated in the free-response format. Three- parameter item characteristic curves were compared, as were correlational patterns with other test scores and undergraduate grade point average. Format by gender and format by ethnicity (Asian American, Black, Hispanic, and White) interactions were explored with analyses of covariance. Despite the format differences noted for individual items, total scores for the multiple-choice and free-response tests demonstrated remarkably similar correlational patterns, and there were no significant interactions of test format with either gender or ethnicity.

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