ERIC Number: EJ797107
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Jun
Reference Count: 0
The Effects of Violating Standard Item Writing Principles on Tests and Students: The Consequences of Using Flawed Test Items on Achievement Examinations in Medical Education
Downing, Steven M.
Advances in Health Sciences Education, v10 n2 p133-143 Jun 2005
The purpose of this research was to study the effects of violations of standard multiple-choice item writing principles on test characteristics, student scores, and pass-fail outcomes. Four basic science examinations, administered to year-one and year-two medical students, were randomly selected for study. Test items were classified as either standard or flawed by three independent raters, blinded to all item performance data. Flawed test questions violated one or more standard principles of effective item writing. Thirty-six to sixty-five percent of the items on the four tests were flawed. Flawed items were 0-15 percentage points more difficult than standard items measuring the same construct. Over all four examinations, 646 (53%) students passed the standard items while 575 (47%) passed the flawed items. The median passing rate difference between flawed and standard items was 3.5 percentage points, but ranged from -1 to 35 percentage points. Item flaws had little effect on test score reliability or other psychometric quality indices. Results showed that flawed multiple-choice test items, which violate well established and evidence-based principles of effective item writing, disadvantage some medical students. Item flaws introduce the systematic error of construct-irrelevant variance to assessments, thereby reducing the validity evidence for examinations and penalizing some examinees.
Descriptors: Medical Education, Medical Students, Test Items, Test Format, Multiple Choice Tests, Reliability, Scores, Psychometrics, Pass Fail Grading
Springer. 233 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013. Tel: 800-777-4643; Tel: 212-460-1500; Fax: 212-348-4505; e-mail: email@example.com; Web site: http://www.springerlink.com
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A