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Does Guessing Really Help?

William H. Angoff
Journal of Educational Measurement
Vol. 26, No. 4 (Winter, 1989), pp. 323-336
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1434757
Page Count: 14
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Does Guessing Really Help?
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Abstract

This study examines the claim that attempting, or guessing at, more items yields improved formula scores. Two samples of students who had taken a form of the SAT-Verbal consisting of three parallel half-hour sections, were used to form the following scores on each of the three sections: the number of attempts, a guessing index, the formula score, and (indirectly) an approximation to an ability score. Correlations were obtained separately for the two samples between the attempts, and the guessing index, on one section, the formula score on a second section, and ability as measured by the third section. The partial correlations obtained hovered near zero, suggesting, contrary to conventional opinion, that, on average, attempting more items and guessing are not helpful in yielding higher formula scores, and that, therefore, formula scoring is not generally disadvantageous to the student who is less willing to guess and attempt an item that he or she is not sure of. On closer examination, however, it became clear that the advantages of guessing depend, at least in part, on the ability of the examinee. Although the relationship is generally quite weak, it is apparently the case that more able examinees do tend to profit somewhat from guessing, and would therefore be disadvantaged by their reluctance to guess. On the other hand, less able examinees may lower their scores if they guess.

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