On the strategic equivalence of multiple-choice test scoring rules
A disadvantage of multiple-choice tests is that students have incentives to guess. To discourage guessing, it is common to use scoring rules that either penalize wrong answers or reward omissions. These scoring rules are considered equivalent in psychometrics, although experimental evidence has not always been consistent with this claim. We model students' decisions and show, first, that equivalence holds only under risk neutrality and, second, that the two rules can be modified so that they become equivalent even under risk aversion. This paper presents the results of a field experiment in which we analyze the decisions of subjects taking multiple-choice exams. The evidence suggests that differences between scoring rules are due to risk aversion as theory predicts. We also find that the number of omitted items depends on the scoring rule, knowledge, gender and other covariates.
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