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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Answer changing in multiple choice assessment change that answer when in doubt – and spread the word!

Daniel Bauer*, Veronika Kopp and Martin R Fischer

Author Affiliations

Schwerpunkt Medizindidaktik, Medizinische Klinik Innenstadt, Klinikum der Universität München, Ziemssenstraße 1, 80336 Munich, Germany

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BMC Medical Education 2007, 7:28  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-7-28

Published: 24 August 2007

Abstract

Background

Several studies during the last decades have shown that answer changing in multiple choice examinations is generally beneficial for examinees. In spite of this the common misbelief still prevails that answer changing in multiple choice examinations results in an increased number of wrong answers rather than an improved score. One suggested consequence of newer studies is that examinees should be informed about this misbelief in the hope that this prejudice might be eradicated. This study aims to confirm data from previous studies about the benefits of answer changing as well as pursue the question of whether students informed about the said advantageous effects of answer changing would indeed follow this advice and change significantly more answers. Furthermore a look is cast on how the overall examination performance and mean point increase of these students is affected.

Methods

The answer sheets to the end of term exams of 79 3rd year medical students at the University of Munich were analysed to confirm the benefits of answer changing. Students taking the test were randomized into two groups. Prior to taking the test 41 students were informed about the benefits of changing answers after careful reconsideration while 38 students did not receive such information. Both groups were instructed to mark all answer changes made during the test.

Results

Answer changes were predominantly from wrong to right in full accordance with existing literature resources. It was shown that students who had been informed about the benefits of answer changing when in doubt changed answers significantly more often than students who had not been informed. Though students instructed on the benefits of changing answers scored higher in their exams than those not instructed, the difference in point increase was not significant.

Conclusion

Students should be informed about the benefits of changing initial answers to multiple choice questions once when in reasonable doubt about these answers. Furthermore, reconsidering answers should be encouraged as students will heed the advice and change more answers than students not so instructed.