Merve Sarac (an RMME alumna) and Dr. Eric Loken (a current RMME faculty member) recently published a new article, entitled: “Examining Patterns of Omitted Responses in a Large-scale English Language Proficiency Test” in the International Journal of Testing. Congratulations to Merve and Eric on this excellent accomplishment!
This study is an exploratory analysis of examinee behavior in a large-scale language proficiency test. Despite a number-right scoring system with no penalty for guessing, we found that 16% of examinees omitted at least one answer and that women were more likely than men to omit answers. Item-response theory analyses treating the omitted responses as missing rather than wrong showed that examinees had underperformed by skipping the answers, with a greater underperformance among more able participants. An analysis of omitted answer patterns showed that reading passage items were most likely to be omitted, and that native language-translation items were least likely to be omitted. We hypothesized that since reading passage items were most tempting to skip, then among examinees who did answer every question there might be a tendency to guess at these items. Using cluster analyses, we found that underperformance on the reading items was more likely than underperformance on the non-reading passage items. In large-scale operational tests, examinees must know the optimal strategy for taking the test. Test developers must also understand how examinee behavior might impact the validity of score interpretations.