Test-Item Order: Does It Matter? A Response

Because research into the effects of test-item order on exam performance has produced equivocal results, the editor recently suggested that “it is not a bad idea for instructors to systematically order test items and analyze the results to see how test-item order might be affecting students,” in particular to examine “how ... [students] feel when they come to a questions they can't answer.” The issue turns on the “fairly widespread belief among faculty that putting ... easier questions first reduces exam anxiety [presumably by building confidence], ... [which] can improve performance (The Teaching Professor, February 2013, p. 6). Logically, then, putting difficult questions first would be counterproductive. But is this in fact the case?

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