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Cho Kin Cheng, Lisa-Marie Collimore, Dwayne E. Paré, Shakinaz Desa, Steve Joordens; Look at the Choices too: An Examination of Looking Behaviours in a Multiple Choice Test. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):491. doi: 10.1167/11.11.491.
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The current study examines students' ocular behaviours during a multiple choice exam. Specifically, we are interested in how students would approach a multiple choice item visually and whether there is attention bias due to the location of the options. Participants (N = 22) were students enrolled in an Introductory Psychology class who had recently completed the course midterm exam. For this study, students were administered an alternate but comparable version of the midterm exam designed so that visual behaviours could be measured throughout the exam taking. The exam consisted of 52 multiple choice items with four possible options (one target and three distracters). During exam participation, students' ocular behaviors were recorded using a desktop mounted eye tracker system (EyeLink 1000). Dwell time, run count, and pupil size were measured in five areas of interest on each item: question, option A, B, C & D. On correct trials we found that students dwelled longer on the target than the question and distracters. Also, they tended to looked longer at the earlier options (A & B) than the latter options (C & D). In the cases when target location was at B or C, students showed longer dwell time at the distracters located prior to the target than the distracters located following the target. Furthermore, the run count data revealed that these differences in looking time might be a result of the differences in the number of times they went back to the options. In contrast to the previous research on multiple choice exams that suggests the location of the options has little impact on students' performance, the results of this study demonstrated an attention bias towards distracters that were positioned earlier in an item. These findings suggest that scrambling item options could lead to performance differences based solely on location.
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