The 15-Second Rule of Test-Taking

Have you ever seen your students start checking out quiz questions before they’ve even read the first sentence of a reading assignment? Do you think it makes a difference in their scores?

We know that students often peek at the quiz items before they read the entire article. We decided to find out whether that made a difference in their overall quiz performance. We found out that when we compare students to their own performance, they perform better when they spend more than 15 seconds on an article before opening the quiz.

View of when students open an article: View of when students click to open the quiz:

The chart below highlights how many minutes pass before a student opens the quiz. Once students open the quiz, they can view and respond to all quiz questions. For all completed quizzes from this school year, 61% of students opened the quiz panel within the first 60 seconds of opening the article.

The 15-Second Rule

We observed an interesting phenomenon – 72% of students who opened the quiz panel within the first minute, opened it within the first 15 seconds. This means, in nearly half of all quizzes taken this school year, the students opened the quiz within the first 15 seconds.

Some students opened it after 20 seconds, or even 16 seconds, but enough opened it within 15 seconds that we decided to use it as a threshold. We asked: How did students who waited more than 15 seconds do on their quizzes compared to students who opened the quiz within the first 15 seconds?

We took our active students and divided their scores into three categories based on quiz performance:

  •    Highest Level: Quizzes with a score of 70% or above
  •    Medium Level: Quizzes with a score between 50% and 69%
  •    Lowest Level: Quizzes with a score below 50%

For example:

We looked at students who spent 15 seconds or less on their worst quizzes and then looked at those same students to see how much time they spent on their best quizzes. We found that 65% of students who spent 15 seconds or less on their lowest level quizzes, spent more than 15 seconds on their highest level quizzes. On average, students spent 8 seconds on the article before opening the quiz on their worst quizzes. Conversely, students spent 50 seconds, on average, on the article before opening the quiz on their best quizzes.

Teachers – have you found this same phenomenon in your class? Do you find that your students who don’t immediately open the quiz, tend to do better than when they do open it immediately? Tweet us @Newsela, we’d love your insight. 

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