# Evaluating a Retest Policy at a North American University

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4 4 EVALUATING A RETEST POLICY AT A NORTH AMERICAN UNIVERSITY Spearman s rho was calculated for the math tests, with the level of significance set at.05. RESULTS The institutional norms for ACCUPLACER testing between 2010 and 2014 are provided in Table 1. In total, 5,766 candidates were tested during this time, but as noted in the previous section, the combination of tests completed by each candidate varied depending on the program they were applying to. Since most programs required Reading Comprehension, it was the most common test taken, followed by the Arithmetic, Elementary Algebra, Sentence Skills and WritePlacer (Table 1). TABLE 1 Institutional Norms: Descriptive Statistics of ACCUPLACER Testing from 2010 to 2014 ACCUPLACER Test N % of Applicants Taking Each Test Mean SD Minimum Maximum Reading Comprehension 5, % Sentence Skills 3, % WritePlacer 1, % Arithmetic 4, % Elementary Algebra 3, % N = 5,766 Of the 5,766 potential students who were tested, 878 (15%) completed a retest within one year. As mentioned earlier, these students were required to retake only tests in which they did not achieve the necessary cutscores. Consequently, in most cases, applicants retook only one test (66%); however, a fair number took two tests (24%), and some attempted three (8%) or four (2%) tests. Out of 3,514 candidates who completed the Elementary Algebra test initially, 345 retested (9.8%) making it the most frequently repeated test. Arithmetic was second with 358 out of 4,693 (7.6%) candidates retesting, and Reading Comprehension was close behind with 377 out of 5,172 (7.3%) retesting. Tests with the lowest frequencies of retests were WritePlacer with 74 of the 1,621 (4.6%) candidates retesting and Sentence Skills with 121 out of 3,193 (3.8%) candidates retesting. The descriptive and comparative statistics of the test scores for the applicants who retested are provided in Table 2. TABLE 2 Comparison of Test and Retest Scores: Paired t-test and Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Tests Results FIRST TEST RETEST DIFFERENCE ACCUPLACER Test n Mean SD Skewness Kurtosis Mean SD Skewness Kurtosis Mean Statistic Effect Size Reading Comprehension t =16.93*.87 Sentence Skills t = 9.73*.88 WritePlacer t = 8.06*.94 Arithmetic Z = 13.56*.72 Elementary Algebra Z = 13.29*.72 *p <.001, two-tailed.

5 Journal of the National College Testing Association 5 Based on the paired t-tests, the means from the retests were significantly higher than those from the first tests for all three English tests. The effect sizes for these differences were large (Cohen, 1988). Similarly, based on the Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests, there were significant differences in test and retest scores for the two math tests, with both exhibiting large effect sizes. Table 3 shows the breakdown of test scores, as a function of whether they increased, decreased, or did not change upon retesting. TABLE 3 The Distribution of the Changes in Retest Scores Applicants ACCUPLACER Test n Scores Increased No Change Scores Decreased Reading Comprehension % 6 2% 64 17% Sentence Skills % 2 2% 24 20% WritePlacer % 19 26% 5 7% Arithmetic % 7 2% 61 17% Elementary Algebra % 19 6% 46 13% With the exception of WritePlacer, on which only two out of every three students saw their scores improve, approximately 80% of students saw their ACCUPLACER scores improve upon retesting. Based on the individual data, the majority of the score gains were large (i.e., greater than 10 points on the multiple choice tests), whereas the majority of the score decreases were relatively small (i.e., less than 10 points on the multiple choice tests). Based on the correlation analysis, there were significant negative associations between initial test scores and the differences in tests scores for all three English tests, but not for the math tests (Table 4). The significant, negative correlations indicate that lower scores on initial tests related to larger gains on the retests, and higher initial test scores related to smaller gains on the retests for Reading Comprehension, Sentence Skills, and WritePlacer. TABLE 4 Correlation Analysis of First Test Scores and Score Differences for the Five ACCUPLACER Tests ACCUPLACER Test n Correlation Coefficient R-squared F Sig (2-tailed) Reading Comprehension 377 r = Sentence Skills 121 r = WritePlacer 74 r = Arithmetic 358 r s = Elementary Algebra 345 r s = DISCUSSION In higher education, retest policies for admission and placement testing often vary. Many of these policies are established by the testing agency, but others are established by educational testing centers operating within the postsecondary system. For the latter, evaluating the efficacy of any such policy is crucial. Generally, the assumption behind retesting is that it allows candidates the opportunity to improve their test scores, but do scores actually improve and, if so, by how much? To explore this issue, this study utilized assessment data to evaluate a North American University s

7 Journal of the National College Testing Association 7 retest, does this hinder their performance by increasing stress levels, or does it enhance their performance by motivating them to be better prepared? Although candidates reactions should not necessarily determine policy, such input certainly could inform policy development or revision. Conclusion Utilizing five years of testing data, this study evaluated a North American university s retest policy of allowing one retest without any preconditions. Assessing the frequency of retests and the score differences between tests and retests made it possible to conclude that the retest policy at this institution was acceptable. Whether the same can be said about retest policies at other educational institutions is uncertain unless such institutions conduct similar studies of their own.

9 Journal of the National College Testing Association 9 Appendix I: TRU ACCUPLACER Testing Information Minimum Score Required for Each Test Program Reading Comprehension Sentence Skills Write Placer Arithmetic Elementary Algebra Aboriginal Health Career Applied Business Technology Bachelor of Education in Trades & Technology Business Diploma Construction Trades: Carpentry/Residential/Joinery Construction Trades: Piping Electrical & Electronics Industrial Electrician/ Instrumentation Mechanic Food Training: Culinary Arts & Retail Meat Processing Health Care Assistant Mechanical Trades: Automotive Service Technician Mechanical Trades: Heavy Duty/ Commercial Transport Welding Other Trades: Partsperson, Trowel & Water Treatment University Entrance-Level English University Preparation English varies varies varies University Preparation Math varies varies

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