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Hit or Miss? Test Taking Behavior in Multiple Choice Exams


  • Pelin Akyol
  • James Key
  • Kala Krishna


This paper is the first to structurally model how a test taker answers questions in a multiple choice exam. We allow for the possibility of a penalty for a wrong answer which makes risk averse examinees more likely to skip questions. Despite the lack of item response data, we can estimate the model by using the insight that skipping behavior, together with penalties for wrong answers, makes certain scores much more likely than others. Using data from the Turkish University Entrance Exam, we estimate the model and find that candidates' attitudes towards risk differ according to their gender and ability with females and those with high ability being significantly more risk-averse. However, the impact of differences in risk aversion on scores is small. As a result, a higher guessing penalty increases the precision of the exam, and does so with a minimal impact on gender bias.

Suggested Citation

  • Pelin Akyol & James Key & Kala Krishna, 2022. "Hit or Miss? Test Taking Behavior in Multiple Choice Exams," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 147, pages 3-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:adr:anecst:y:2022:i:147:p:3-50

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    More about this item


    Multiple-Choice Exams; Guessing Penalty; Risk Aversion;
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    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General


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