Women’s Unwillingness to Guess on Standardized Tests Hurts Their Scores

In an experiment, females were nearly twice as likely as males to skip test questions if they didn’t know the answers, even though the penalties for incorrect responses were so small that test-takers would have been better off answering every question, says Katherine Baldiga of The Ohio State University. The experimental test was structured like the SAT, with a point given for every correct answer, a quarter-point deducted for a wrong answer, and zero points awarded for an unanswered question (the SAT is slated to undergo structural changes in 2016). Question-skipping, which can be partly attributed to females’ greater risk aversion, resulted in significantly worse scores on the experimental test.

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