Article about Test-Taking Reactions

*Note: I may have to change the micro-study for class to focus on students’ reaction to the test rather than the test itself because the IRB process is prohibitive. I will need to email you or Skype later this week.


Bradshaw, Jenny. “Test-takers’ Reactions to a Placement Test.”¬†Language Testing 7.1 (1990): 13-30. Print.

Students were asked to take a questionnaire half an hour after taking a placement exam. The students were divided into groups based on their first language. The questionnaire features 7 point Likert scales that are individualized by question type.

The purpose of the study was not to test particular hypotheses but rather to identify possible areas of future research. The study was interested in whether a difference in amount of test time or instructions given would influence students’ perceptions of the test. Control groups were created

They had 4 groups of students. The first two groups spoke the same first language and were given the test and questionnaire under similar circumstances as a test of questionnaire validity. Once the results were studied to confirm reliability of the instrument, these groups were combined. The third group spoke a different first language. The fourth group spoke the same first language as the first two groups but had extended time and further instructions.

They predicted that students who scored higher on the test would respond more favorably to the test than the students who scored lower. The students who scored lower on the test “rated the tests significantly lower for time available, clarity of instructions, nervousness and difficulty on all three parts” (21).

Many charts were included with explanations of the mean score as well as separate columns that indicate whether the answer was largely neutral or the mean was a result of almost equal negative and positive scores.

The analysis of the positive components of the test finds that “perceptions of difficulty appeared to have more connections with reactions on other dimensions than did test score” particularly on the third part of the test (22). A chart with correlation coefficients was included as evidence of this finding.

While there were differences between students who scores on either end of the spectrum, there were no significant differences for gender,  first language, or nervousness. Provision of more time did not seem to have an impact.

A different set of questionnaires was given to the teachers. Teacher perceptions of test difficulty differed from student perception.


In particular, I liked that the study included a reliability test for the instrument being used. The researcher sited criteria by Nevo as their guide for this. I also appreciate the inclusion of data that shows whether the mean was reflective of largely neutral responses or a wash of negative and positive responses.

Little discussion was given to why the perceptions of difficulty seem more significant than the actual test scores in terms of student reactions, especially in light of differences in negative perceptions by the students who scored the lowest on the test.