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Test Difficulty and Stereotype Threat on the GRE General Test

Stricker, Lawrence J.; Bejar, Isaac I.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
GREB-96-06R, RR-99-19
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Black Stereotypes Black Students College Seniors Computer-Assisted Testing Differential Item Difficulty Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Graduate Students Self Esteem Sex Stereotypes Test Anxiety White Students


Recent research suggests that stereotype threat may adversely affect the performance of Black and female examinees on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test, but that this threat may be minimized by using easier test items. The present study investigated the ability to reduce or eliminate stereotype threat by manipulating the difficulty of items administered via a computer-adaptive version of the General Test; the generalizability of these findings for Black examinees as well as women, and for verbal as well as quantitative sections of the test; and the processes that may mediate the effects of stereotype threat on test performance. The standard version of the computer-adaptive General Test or a modified version that presents examinees with items that are easier than usual, and a battery of measures of stereotype threat and possible symptoms or consequences of stereotype threat were administered to college seniors bound to graduate school and to first-year graduate students. Reducing test difficulty did not affect test performance or explicit indexes of stereotype threat for any group, but it lowered the anxiety of White students and women and raised the self-esteem of White students.

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