Test-Item Order: Does It Matter?

Written by: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D.

Frequently instructors discourage cheating on multiple-choice exams by creating different versions of the exam. Test questions may be reordered randomly, according to their degree of difficulty, or in the order the material was presented in class, or the answer options may be ordered differently. The question is whether these different versions of the exam in any way influence how well a student performs on the exam. There is a fairly widespread belief among faculty that putting the easier questions first helps students. It reduces exam anxiety, and that can improve performance on the exam.

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