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Relationships Between Differential Performance on Multiple-Choice and Essay Sections of Selected AP Exams and Measures of Performance in High School and College AP

Bridgeman, Brent; Morgan, Rick
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RR-94-41, CBR-94-05
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Advanced Placement Program (AP), College Students, Essay Tests, Grades (Scholastic), Multiple-Choice Tests, Predictive Measurement


Students with high scores (top third) on the essay portion of an Advanced Placement Examination and low scores (bottom third) on the multiple-choice portion of the same examination were compared with students whose performance showed the opposite pattern (top third on the multiple-choice questions and bottom third on the essay questions). Across examinations in different subject areas (history, English, and biology), students who were relatively strong in the essay format and weak in the multiple-choice format were about as successful in their college courses as students whose performance showed the opposite pattern, especially in those courses where grades are typically not determined by multiple-choice tests. Students who scored high on the multiple-choice portion and low on the essay portion performed relatively well on other multiple-choice tests, especially the verbal section of the SAT. Across several ethnic/racial groups, males tended to receive relatively high scores on the multiple-choice portion of the AP United States History Examination while females received higher scores on the essays than on the multiple-choice questions. Among females whose best language was not English, scores were substantially higher on the essay portion of the history examination; among males in this group, scores were slightly higher for the multiple-choice questions. Because the population of students who take Advanced Placement Examinations is exceptionally able, generalizations to less able populations are not warranted. (14pp.)

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