They use a Turkish data on an exam where there was negative marking. Did the marking effect student’s choice of whether to skip the question or guess the same? What about gender differences given girls are seen as more risk averse.
Guessing answers can undermine the effectiveness of multiple choice exams. Negative marking, in which incorrect answers are penalised, can limit guessing, but may bias the test against risk-averse test takers. Using Turkish university admission exam data, this column explores whether negative marking biases exams, particularly against women, who tend to be more risk averse. Differences in risk aversion appear to have a limited impact, especially for good students.
Consistent with prior expectations, we find that women are more risk averse. As shown in Figure 1, which plots the estimated value of c for men and women with different expected scores (ability), risk aversion increases with score and at all scores women require a greater degree of certainty to be willing to answer a question. The differences between genders are statistically significant for the most part, but are relatively small. In the data, there are five possible answers, so that while a random guess has a 20% chance of success; a high ability man would skip unless he was approximately 26% sure, whereas a high ability woman would need to be 27% sure.
Why do risk aversion differences seem to matter so little? For these differences to matter, two things have to happen. First, the best choice has to have a probability of being correct that lies in the gap in their c – that is, between .26 and .27. Thus, there is a relatively low chance that the differences will be relevant for a given question as the gap between cut-offs is small. Moreover, even if the belief does lie in this region, the expected gain from answering is very small as test takers are not very risk averse. Essentially, differences in choices made due to skipping behavior are not common, and when they do arise, have small consequences. Intuitively, this is like saying that while ordering at a restaurant, the best option is usually clear, and when it is not, the choice made is of little consequence!