[IPAC-List] Threatening a Penalty for Guessing

Doverspike,Dennis dd1 at uakron.edu
Tue Apr 27 13:50:25 EDT 2010

I have not reviewed the literature in depth - but I would say that for non-speeded tests --

1. You should not be dishonest in instructions.
2. This may have a differential impact on females as compared to males.
3. This may have a differential impact on minorities.

There is a great deal of research on the general topic of risk taking in females and males. Females tend to be less likely to take risks. I do not know if there is literature on multiple choice questions specifically, but this would lead females to do worse under do not guess instructions.

I have met individual test takers who have basically answered almost no questions under such instructions, because they were unfraid of answering unless they were 100% sure of the answer.

We often tell people in our instructions that "they should guess." If people do not guess when they should be guessing, then they are penalizing themselves. We have found that minorities are less likely to guess by completing all the questions on the test. This would have the effect of resulting in adverse impact against minorities.

All of the above was for power rather than speeded tests.

Ok now the added caveat that this is a speeded test. For speeded tests you usually have to correct for guessing. How could you not? Consider the typing test. How would it make sense to give a typing test or say a finding as test where you did not correct for guessing. Of course, you are not really correcting for guessing. It is more you are correcting for incorrect responses.

From: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org [ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org] On Behalf Of Joel Wiesen [jwiesen at appliedpersonnelresearch.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:19 AM
To: IPAC-List at ipacweb.org
Subject: [IPAC-List] Threatening a Penalty for Guessing

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?

Has anyone had practical experience with such instructions? Do test
takers pay attention to such instructions?

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

(This particular instruction was used on a speeded (clerical speed)
portion of a longer test for a craft type job.)



Joel P. Wiesen, Ph.D., Director
Applied Personnel Research
62 Candlewood Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583-6040
(617) 244-8859

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