Gender Differences in Multiple‐Choice Tests: The Role of Differential Guessing Tendencies

Gershon Ben‐Shakhar, Yakov Sinai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study focused on gender differences in the tendency to omit items and to guess in multiple‐choice tests. It was hypothesized that males would show greater guessing tendencies than females and that the use of formula scoring rather than the use of number of correct answers would result in a relative advantage for females. Two samples were examined: ninth graders and applicants to Israeli universities. The teenagers took a battery of five or six aptitude tests used to place them in various high schools, and the adults took a battery of five tests designed to select candidates to the various faculties of the Israeli universities. The results revealed a clear male advantage in most subtests of both batteries. Four measures of item‐omission tendencies were computed for each subtest, and a consistent pattern of greater omission rates among females was revealed by all measures in most subtests of the two batteries. This pattern was observed even in the few subtests that did not show male superiority and even when permissive instructions were used. Correcting the raw scores for guessing reduced the male advantage in all cases (and in the few subtests that showed female advantage the difference increased as a result of this correction), but this effect was small. It was concluded that although gender differences in guessing tendencies are robust they account for only a small fraction of the observed gender differences in multiple‐choice tests. The results were discussed, focusing on practical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-35
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Educational Measurement
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1991
Externally publishedYes


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