‘Scratch-off’ Scantrons revolutionize test taking

October 29, 2013 — by Michelle Leung

There are two minutes left and you’re staring down at the test in a panic. You’ve filled in answers “A” and “B” and erased them five times already. You've already eliminated “C,” “D” and “E”  — that should be worth something, you tell yourself. But it's not, since choosing the wrong choice will cost you all the points for that problem. 

There are two minutes left and you’re staring down at the test in a panic. You’ve filled in answers “A” and “B” and erased them five times already. You've already eliminated “C,” “D” and “E”  — that should be worth something, you tell yourself. But it's not, since choosing the wrong choice will cost you all the points for that problem. 
Epstein Educational Enterprises's revolutionary Intermediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT) seeks to solve this problem that has long bedeviled students. The Company’s revolutionary multiple-choice test can give teachers a more accurate reading of how well students grasp a concept. 
In California, the Las Colinas School District and the California State University in Fullerton have successfully begun using IF-AT.
The IF-AT is essentially a Scantron with its answers hidden beneath a layer of film. Once a student has chosen an answer, he or she scratches off the box with a special pencil. If the answer is correct, a star is printed under the film the student scratches off.
If the answer is wrong, the student can then scratch off his or her second choice. When the test is graded, partial credit can be given for answering correctly on the second try, resulting in a more accurate assessment of students' skills and eliminating the issue of receiving no credit when a student is stuck between two close answers.
Partial credit can alleviate stress and anxiety caused by tests with questions on which students can only get all or no points. Students already overloaded with homework and projects won't need to stress about the all-or-nothing grading of a test. 
According to the company, by revealing the answer right away, students who choose correctly are able to reinforce their learning. Students who get the correct answer on their second, third, fourth or even fifth attempt will understand their error even as they are taking the test, ultimately resulting in a better understanding and retention of the material.
Unlike regular Scantron tests, in which students cannot see the correct answer until days or weeks later, IF-AT ensures that each student knows the answer before the test is over. Teachers don’t have to waste class time going over the tests because no one will leave the classroom without knowing what they got wrong and what the correct answer was. 
Additionally, the act of scratching off an answer is more interesting than simply filling in bubbles. Scratching off film rather than filling in circles makes an interactive game rather than a tedious test. This also can help students to be more focused during the examination and ultimately result in a better assessment of their knowledge.
Some may argue that  IF-AT makes it necessary for all teachers to use universal sets of pre-printed answer sheets which may make it easier to cheat; teachers across the country would be using the same sequence of answers, and one leak could expose thousands of answer keys. Students could cheat even in between periods. 
However, the company claims that it will provide many different answer sheets for teachers, making this concern unnecessary. Even between periods, teachers could use different answer sheets for each class.
Another possible concern is that students cannot erase answers and choose different ones. Once an answer is scratched off the choice has been made, and students cannot change their minds. But rather than limit students’ options during a test, this pressure to think clearly about each problem may actually help students' thinking on the spot. Students can practice quick decision making while they take tests.
IF-AT was developed by instructors who understand the need for partial credit tests in classrooms and by a psychology professor who specializes in human learning and memory. When students use this smarter multiple-choice testing method, they will benefit from immediate feedback, partial credit and stress relief.
 
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