Comprehensive Assessment Tracking System

Slow and steady wins the race… or does it? Test completion time is negatively correlated with test grade

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 to Thursday, April 14, 2016

When I watch some of my students complete a 50 question multiple choice exam in 12 minutes, I wonder to myself, “that student can’t possibly be getting an A, can they?”

I decided to explore this question by correlating completion time with test grade. I looked at all of my Introduction to Psychology classes (N=113) and found that the time it took to complete the exam (range 0-50 minutes) was significantly negatively correlated with exam score (range 0-100 points, r=-.40, p<.001). This finding means that, based on the pattern, the longer students take to complete the exam, the lower their exam grade is. This finding could very well be mediated by a third variable, for example, perhaps students are second guessing their answers and therefore taking longer and choosing incorrect responses when they go back and change their answer. I plan to report these findings to my students, to show them the correlation but also to discuss statistics with them!

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NOR2157229's picture
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It may be that the students who know the information aren't guessing, but really are able to complete it in a shorter amount of time because they know the answer whereas those who take longer don't know the answer.  If they took the exams using paper/pencil, you should be able to see who changed their answers.  Great job!  Ok, you're on a roll with these CATS!!!

PETAA00009's picture
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My guess is, when you kow your stuff, it doesn't take long to fill in the answer! However, it would seem to me that the amount of time they put into test prep would be a greater predictor of test success. I think that by reporting this information to students you might get those that think taking a test faster is the best way to go, regardless if they know the answer or not. Based on your data, you may get more tests completed in a faster time, but I would predict that yiour scores won't change much; in fact, they might even drop. That said, this was very interesting and I look forward to your continued analysis!

OLGYZ58951's picture
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This is an interesting research project on test taking, but also a great example to share in a statistics course.
Thank you for including so much on the quantitative analysis!

REBZS76641's picture
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From experience, if I finished an exam this early, it was because I knew the content.  When I would go back to check over my work, I would make changes which would negatively impact my grade.  Interview your students as well.  I typically do small interviews after an exam to see why they scored low or took a long time.  It helps understan your data.  

JENBP70391's picture
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I agree with Becky. I would see why they scored low. I have several students that took the entire period and left numerous things blank and then I have students that went back and changed things and that is why they ended up with a lower score. I also have students who finish quickly but made numerous mistakes so I would be very interested to see what your students report.