- Rapid-guessing on exams is rampant, particularly among male students and on reading tests, but a researcher at Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) says that thanks to computerized testing, it can be determined that a student is likely doing so if they answer a question in 10% of the time it takes their peers, according to an article in The Hechinger Report.
- By 8th grade, it is suspected that as many as 16% of male students have rapid guessing behavior, and the practice produces much lower scores than a student would earn if they had put effort into their work.
- Rapid guessing also makes it more difficult to determine whether a student is learning, and it can also make a school or district appear to have lower test scores.
Being able to identify patterns of rapid guessing may help schools tease out which test results are useful and which are not. If students are disengaged in the test itself, they are more likely to just go through and answer the questions quickly without giving much thought. If a test analyst can detect this behavior, schools and districts can better understand that the responses give no useful information about achievement and understanding.
This can be particularly useful for learning interventions. Rapid guessing could better indicate specific areas where an individual student is struggling. And if large portions of the test takers are rapidly guessing through certain sections of the test, that information may indicate a class-wide lack of understanding of the content. In that case, it can help an educator identify areas where lessons may need to be tweaked, or where the school or district may need to alter its approach to curriculum and resources entirely.
However, rapid guessing can more likely be a result of students not trying on tests that they know have low stakes for them, even though they may be very important for the district, school or teacher. Therefore, being able to identify — and throw out — test results that show rapid guessing behavior may be helpful.
That sort of purge could present a more accurate picture of the student body’s true knowledge. Additionally, creating a system that rewards students who take these tests to the best of their ability, rather than punishing those who didn’t, may be the best way to inspire them to do their best overall.