MEASUREMENT RESEARCH ASSOCIATES
TEST INSIGHTS
October 2009
Greetings
 

Selecting the appropriate amount of time to allow for candidates to complete a computer-based test may be a difficult decision.  We hope that the simple study will provide some criteria for selecting an appropriate amount of time.

Phil Higgins

Manager, Computer-Based Testing

Candidate Measured Ability and Use of Time
I spoke with a candidate several days ago who was concerned that one minute per item would not be adequate time to answer the items.  This prompted another review of how candidates use testing time with the purpose of ascertaining how candidates of different measured ability levels used their time to respond and review items. The items are four response multiple choice items.

Candidates were divided into three groups based on their overall percent correct.  The highest group had percent correct scores above 68% correct.  The moderate group had scores between 52% and 68% correct and the low group had scores of 52% correct or less.  On average all candidates spent less than a minute to initially answer the item.  This is an average; however, the minimum was .5 minutes and the maximum was less than 1.5 minutes.  There was no statistically significant different in the time per item used by high scoring and low scoring candidates.  The table below shows the results.
                

Time in Seconds for Initial Response to Items

Candidate Group

Mean Seconds  per Item

SD

Min

Max

High scoring candidates

49

15

31

84

Moderate scoring candidates

55

13

31

83

Low scoring candidates

57

14

39

84

Total Population

54

14

31

84

A second issue is how much time candidates spend reviewing items.  Using the same candidate performance groups, the seconds candidates spent reviewing items was calculated. On average candidates spent less than 15 seconds reviewing items, the minimum was .00 or no review and the maximum was 42 seconds which is still less than a minute.  It is interesting that the lowest scoring candidates took the least maximum time to review their responses. There was no statistically significant different in the time per item used by high scoring and low scoring candidates.

Time in Second for Review of Items


 

 

Candidate Group

Mean seconds per item to review

 

 

SD

 

 

Min

 

 

Max

High scoring candidates

14

12

.00

42

Moderate scoring candidates

9

10

.00

44

Low scoring candidates

10

10

.00

24

Total Population

11

11

.00

44


The maximum amount of time a candidate interacted with each item is presented in the next table.  There was no statistically significant different in the time per item used by high scoring and low scoring candidates.


Total Time in Seconds Used by Candidates to Answer Items

 

Candidate Group

Total Mean seconds per item

 

SD

 

Min

 

Max

High scoring candidates

63

15

42

84

Moderate scoring candidates

65

14

39

84

Low scoring candidates

67

15

46

84

Total Population

65

15

39

84


This simple study points to two conclusions.  First candidates, regardless of their ability, use approximately the same amount of time to respond to items.  Second, allowing 60 to 90 seconds per item is ample time for candidates to respond and review items.  Since computer testing costs are often calculated by the amount a testing time used, this information may be useful in calculating the amount of time to allow for the test.

Measurement Research Associates, Inc.
505 North Lake Shore Dr., Suite 1304
Chicago, IL  60611
Phone: (312) 822-9648     Fax: (312) 822-9650


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