Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, First International Conference on Higher Education Advances

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Mixed-format exams in higher education: Assessment of internal consistency reliability
Naina Garg, Eric Lee

Last modified: 10-06-2015


In higher education courses, instructors often use mixed-format exams composed of several types of questions such as essays, problem-solving, and multiple-choice to evaluate student performance. It is important to discriminate reliably amongst students according to their performance on final examinations. The lower the reliability of student exam scores, the greater the error associated with making decisions based on them. Why then have we found no previous studies of reliability for this, one of the most common types of exam? We investigated the reliability of student scores on 12 official mixed-format final exams used in 22 classes with 1012 students in six undergraduate courses taught by five professors in three fields of business (finance, accounting, and statistics). We focussed on estimating internal consistency reliability, which is essentially a measure of the reproducibility of test scores. Using coefficient omega, the most appropriate measure of assessing reliability of mixed-format exams, we found that in these 22 classes reliability averaged .85, with over 90% of the classes with reliabilities exceeding .80. These reliabilities are very high, comparable with those reported for professionally developed standarized tests and better than those reported recently for single-format multiple choice exams in higher education.


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