Are Speeded Tests Unfair? Modeling the Impact of Time Limits on the Gender Gap in Mathematics

Andrea Stoevenbelt, Jelte M. Wicherts, Paulette Flore, Lorraine Phillips, Jakob Pietschnig, Bruno Verschuere, Martin Voracek, Inga Schwabe

When cognitive and educational tests are administered under time limits, tests may become speeded and this may affect the reliability and validity of the resulting test scores. Prior research has shown that time limits may create or enlarge gender gaps in cognitive and academic testing. On average, women complete fewer items than men when a test is administered with a strict time limit, whereas gender gaps are frequently reduced when time limits are relaxed. In this study, we propose that gender differences in test strategy might inflate gender gaps favoring men, and relate test strategy to stereotype threat effects under which women underperform due to the pressure of negative stereotypes about their performance. First, we applied a Bayesian two-dimensional item response theory (IRT) model to data obtained from two registered reports that investigated stereotype threat in mathematics, and estimated the latent correlation between underlying test strategy (here, completion factor, a proxy for working speed) and mathematics ability. Second, we tested the gender gap and assessed potential effects of stereotype threat on female test performance. We found a positive correlation between the completion factor and mathematics ability, such that more able participants dropped out later in the test. We did not observe a stereotype threat effect but found larger gender differences on the latent completion factor than on latent mathematical ability, suggesting that test strategies affect the gender gap in timed mathematics performance. We argue that if the effect of time limits on tests is not taken into account, this may lead to test unfairness and biased group comparisons, and urge researchers to consider these effects in either their analyses or study planning.

Institut für Psychologie der Entwicklung und Bildung, Institut für Psychologie der Kognition, Emotion und Methoden
Externe Organisation(en)
Tilburg University, The Netherlands Institute for Social Research, University of Amsterdam (UvA), Universität Wien
Educational and Psychological Measurement
Anzahl der Seiten
ÖFOS 2012
501018 Psychologische Diagnostik, 501004 Differentielle Psychologie
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Education, Developmental and Educational Psychology, Applied Mathematics, Applied Psychology
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 5 – Geschlechtergleichheit
Link zum Portal