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Do students behave rationally in multiple-choice tests? Evidence from a field experiment

  • Javier Gardeazabal
  • Maria Espinosa

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 filed 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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Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00237.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00237
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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  1. Becker, William E & Johnston, Carol, 1999. "The Relationship between Multiple Choice and Essay Response Questions in Assessing Economics Understanding," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 75(231), pages 348-57, December.
  2. Marco Haan & Bart Los & Yohanes Riyanto & Martin van Geest, 2002. "The Weakest Link - A Field Experiment in Rational Decision Making," Experimental 0203001, EconWPA.
  3. Scotchmer, Suzanne, 2006. "Risk Taking and Gender in Hierarchies," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt2tm5m16f, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  4. John List & Michael Haigh, 2005. "Do professional traders exhibit myopic loss aversion? An experimental analysis," Artefactual Field Experiments 00052, The Field Experiments Website.
  5. Espinosa Alejos, María Paz & Gardeazabal, Javier, 2007. "Optimal Correction for Guessing in Multiple-Choice Tests," DFAEII Working Papers 2007-08, University of the Basque Country - Department of Foundations of Economic Analysis II.
  6. Bram Cadsby, C. & Maynes, Elizabeth, 2005. "Gender, risk aversion, and the drawing power of equilibrium in an experimental corporate takeover game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 39-59, January.
  7. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
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