"Throwing Out" questions on a test

  1. I was surprised to see how many questions are "thrown out" on our nursing and pharm tests. If the class doesn't do well, the teacher looks at which questions were missed by the most students and will add that many points to everyone's score.

    I can understand if a question is poorly worded or was not covered in the materials, but excluding it because a large percentage of the students missed it?

    Do you see this in your programs? I'm suspicious it is a way of inflating the grades when a class overall isn't cutting it.
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    29 Comments

  3. by   Jill2Shay
    The rationale is that if most students missed it it wasn't worded in a way that the average amount of students understood it. With those scantron sheets they can get tons of statistics about how the top performers did on a certain question. So it's not about how many people missed it, it can be about *who* missed it as well.
  4. by   bluedove1
    I wish they would do this....my professors are like you get what you got and that is it....if a question is confusing then write a note on your test and they will take it under advisement for the next round students
  5. by   HouTx
    Yeah, this seems to be common practice, but I think it reflects lack of educational expertise. Creating valid test questions is not a mystery. There are very clear guidelines that should be used.

    There are also alternatives to simply throwing out the questions. IMHO, the instructor should do an item analysis (statistical measures, can be done with Excel) to see if the item had any correlation to test grade. If the 'A' students got it right but the 'C' students missed it, it is probably a very good test item. If the 'A'students miss it, it's probably not a good question and should be thrown out.
  6. by   llg
    Once again, I agree with HouTx. I see this practice a lot and I hate it. It lowers standards (for both students and instructors) and that's bad for our profession.

    When I see that a lot of students missed a certain question, I go back and look at the question carefully before making a decision as to what to do about it. The low number of students who get the question right alerts me to a potential problem with the question ... but I will not automatically throw it out. I investigate -- and if I feel it is a bad question, I throw it out. But if I feel it is a good question, it stays in and the people who missed it suffer the consequences of a lower test score.
    Last edit by llg on Mar 7, '13
  7. by   SuperHelper
    This happens at my school, but not a lot, and not with all instructors. Our school actually has a policy that if more than 30% of the class misses a question, especially if the question is missed with the same answer, it's automatically thrown out. But if you get the answer right, you don't get penalized. So there have been a few instances were people got more than 100% as their final test grade.
  8. by   psu_213
    Quote from SuperHelper
    But if you get the answer right, you don't get penalized. So there have been a few instances were people got more than 100% as their final test grade.
    "Throwing out" bad questions if the question was truly bad is good practice. However, giving people credit for getting the question right even if the question was thrown out does not make sense. Either it counts for everyone (if they got it right or if they got it wrong) or it counts for no one. If it is truly a bad question, why should someone get rewarded for getting it right?
  9. by   psu_213
    Quote from HouTx
    Yeah, this seems to be common practice, but I think it reflects lack of educational expertise.
    I don't think that is necessarily the case. In all educational pursuits (even outside of nursing) I have had instructors/teachers/professors throw out questions. There is usually a lot more analysis of the question that just "only 20% of people got this one right." The would ask which students got it right and which got it wrong. It basically operated on the principle that if the majority got the question wrong and the ones who got it right did poorly on the rest of the questions, then it was likely a bad question--and could be a candidate for being thrown out. If, however, a majority got it wrong, but the students who did well on the rest of the test were the ones to answer the question correctly--then it was deemed a valid question.
  10. by   DawnJ
    I go to a for profit school and my concern is that they are inflating the grades of the marginal students in order to keep them in school (and get the $$). They may get a degree with a C, but is it fair to them to pay a ton of money and not be able to pass the NCLEX?

    For example, a final I just took had a full 10% of the questions "tossed" with everyone getting a 10% bump in their grade across the board. I agree with HouTx and the others that if the C students got it wrong and the A/B students got it right, it is a valid question. Also, if a large majority picked the same incorrect answer I think a discussion of the rationale of picking the answer is in order since the rationale may be valid but not exactly what the test writer was trying to get at.
  11. by   SuperHelper
    Quote from psu_213
    "Throwing out" bad questions if the question was truly bad is good practice. However, giving people credit for getting the question right even if the question was thrown out does not make sense. Either it counts for everyone (if they got it right or if they got it wrong) or it counts for no one. If it is truly a bad question, why should someone get rewarded for getting it right?
    Your guess is as good as mine. Plenty of people have complained about it, but some of the teachers still do it. It never works in my favor though.
  12. by   ♪♫ in my ♥
    Except in egregious cases, I am opposed to tossing test questions based on class performance. Occasionally, most of the class simply didn't understand the material or failed to read the question, etc.

    A number of times through my many, many years of higher education have seen examples where all but the best couple of students missed a question and have always felt that if anybody did get it then everybody *could* get it.

    Somewhat tangentially: My experience is that many nursing instructors, while perhaps being fine nurses, are lousy instructors and have very poor knowledge and education outside of straight nursing.
  13. by   traumanurse2b?
    I took a test recently that had questions "thrown out" which lowered my grade. I have learned that throwing out questions is common practice at my school. My experience in my prereqs has been that you maintain credit for the questions if you got them right, so EVERYONE will benefit from the question dropping. Now for my first test my grade dropped a full letter grade because I was right on the edge of the grade initially. For me this was very frustrating because I knew the answers to the questions they dropped (because we reviewed them in class and I knew WHY the answer was right). I missed some other questions due to not taking my time to really read the question, and I own that, it was my fault for missing those questions. Some people had the same grade after the questions were dropped, some had higher grades, and some had lower grades like myself.
    The way I try to think of it (so Im not feeling discouraged by my grade going down) is that had these questions never been on the test to begin with, my grade would still be what it is now. Now I just have to prepare myself for the future. I don't really believe its a way to inflate our grades here, because they were questions that over 25 or 30% of the class missed.
  14. by   afterseason
    Quote from HouTx
    IMHO, the instructor should do an item analysis (statistical measures, can be done with Excel) to see if the item had any correlation to test grade. If the 'A' students got it right but the 'C' students missed it, it is probably a very good test item. If the 'A'students miss it, it's probably not a good question and should be thrown out.
    This is how it is done at my school. It seems very effective. After all, they are human, and sometimes they do throw in a poor question without realizing it. They usually only end up "throwing out" 2-3 questions, and even then they do not actually throw it out. They either give the point to everyone, or they determine that perhaps one answer other than what was considered correct was a common choice, and they will only give the point those those who had either that or the original correct answer (if that makes sense).

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