[IPAC-List] Threatening a Penalty for Guessing

Winfred Arthur, Jr. w-arthur at neo.tamu.edu
Tue Apr 27 11:09:10 EDT 2010

Joel, some general thoughts are embedded below:

On 4/27/2010 8:19 AM, Joel Wiesen wrote:

> If a test's instructions say "you may be penalized for questions you

> mark incorrectly" and then the grading does not correct for guessing,

> what might the effect be?

well, my first thought is that the use of "may" makes this problematic.
it shld state explicitly whether one is going to do so or not. "may"
without specifying the conditions under which this will or will not be
invoked seems to me to be a recipe for . . . well, problems!

and whereas i have not seen any empirical rsch or data on this, the
college board uses this instruction set for some sections of the SAT
[they do not use "may"; they use "will"] and it is my impression that
students are more likely to leave these items blank than guess when they
do not know the answer.


> Has anyone had practical experience with such instructions? Do test

> takers pay attention to such instructions?

not personally. indeed to the contrary, i use an instruction set that
states that there is no penalty for guessing and so it is in one's best
interest to guess if one does not know the answer. subsequently, i
rarely get any non-responses. of course, these are knowledge tests.


> Is there research on this type of ambiguous ("may be penalized") test

> instruction?


not that i am aware of; but then i have not done a lit search either.

> (This particular instruction was used on a speeded (clerical speed)

> portion of a longer test for a craft type job.)

for what it is worth, it is common, if not stand practice to correct
these types of tests for accuracy as well.

hope this is somewhat useful.


- winfred

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