These test formats favor different genders

April 11, 2018

When taking standardized tests, girls perform better with open-ended questions, but boys score higher on multiple choice, research shows.

The new study in Educational Researcher shows test format explains about 25 percent of the variation in state- and district-level gender achievement gaps in the United States.

The association appears stronger in English language arts than in math, researchers say, but the differences are not statistically significant.

Test developers and educators will need to attend more carefully to the mix of item types and the multidimensional sets of skills measured by tests, researchers say.

Policymakers, too, will need to be aware of how states’ use of different test formats or emphasis on different skills may influence cross-state comparisons of gender gaps and funding decisions based on those results.