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Negatively-Marked MCQ Assessments That Reward Partial Knowledge Do Not Introduce Gender Bias Yet Increase Student Performance and Satisfaction and Reduce Anxiety / A. Elizabeth Bond; Owen Bodger; David O. F. Skibinski; D. Hugh Jones; Colin J. Restall; Edward Dudley; Geertje van Keulen
PLoS ONE, Volume: 8, Issue: 2
Swansea University Author: Jones, Hugh
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Multiple-choice question (MCQ) examinations are increasingly used as the assessment method of theoretical knowledge inlarge class-size modules in many life science degrees. MCQ-tests can be used to objectively measure factual knowledge,ability and high-level learning outcomes, but may also introduce...
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Multiple-choice question (MCQ) examinations are increasingly used as the assessment method of theoretical knowledge inlarge class-size modules in many life science degrees. MCQ-tests can be used to objectively measure factual knowledge,ability and high-level learning outcomes, but may also introduce gender bias in performance dependent on topic,instruction, scoring and difficulty. The ‘Single Answer’ (SA) test is often used in which students choose one correct answer, inwhich they are unable to demonstrate partial knowledge. Negatively marking eliminates the chance element of guessingbut may be considered unfair. Elimination testing (ET) is an alternative form of MCQ, which discriminates between all levelsof knowledge, while rewarding demonstration of partial knowledge. Comparisons of performance and gender bias innegatively marked SA and ET tests have not yet been performed in the life sciences. Our results show that life sciencestudents were significantly advantaged by answering the MCQ test in elimination format compared to single answer formatunder negative marking conditions by rewarding partial knowledge of topics. Importantly, we found no significantdifference in performance between genders in either cohort for either MCQ test under negative marking conditions. Surveysshowed that students generally preferred ET-style MCQ testing over SA-style testing. Students reported feeling morerelaxed taking ET MCQ and more stressed when sitting SA tests, while disagreeing with being distracted by thinking aboutbest tactics for scoring high. Students agreed ET testing improved their critical thinking skills. We conclude thatappropriately-designed MCQ tests do not systematically discriminate between genders. We recommend carefulconsideration in choosing the type of MCQ test, and propose to apply negative scoring conditions to each test type toavoid the introduction of gender bias. The student experience could be improved through the incorporation of theelimination answering methods in MCQ tests via rewarding partial and full knowledge.
Swansea University Medical School