Background of the Study

            The choice of an appropriate instrument to estimate ability, skill, achievement, interest to mention but a few, depends on the nature of the objective being measured and it is not an easy task for most classroom teachers. Apart from choice, the instrument itself may not possess the property or attribute of the construct being measured. This makes it impossible to directly determine the quantity or quality of attribute being present in a student. Rather is inferred based on the correctness of a task performed by the student. Hence the use of only one type of test item format to determine students’ ability or achievement in economics needs to re- examined.

            Economics is the study of how to use scarce resources to satisfy human wants. Human wants are unlimited but the resources to satisfy them are limited. According to Okafor (2008), economics as a subject helps individual to be relevant in everyday life and could prepare students for an entrepreneurial career in the future. The general objectives of studying economics in senior secondary school are as follows; to enable students:

v Understand basic economic principles and concepts as tools for sound economic analysis.

v Contribute intelligently to discourse on economic reforms and development as they affect or would affect the generality of Nigerians.

v Understand the structure and functioning of economic institution.

v Appreciates the role of public policies on National economy

v Develop the skills and also appreciates the basis for national economic decisions

v Become sensitized to participate actively in National Economic advancement through entrepreneurship, capital market and so on.

v Understand the role and status of Nigeria and other African countries in the international economic relationships.

v Appreciates the problems encountered by developing countries in their  efforts towards economic advancement [Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), 2008]

            In order to achieve the above stated objectives, different assessment tools are  used to elicit information on extent to which students have achieved the objectives after instruction. The determination of the extent to which objectives have been achieved is carried out through assessment. According to Eggen and Kauchak (2004) Classroom assessment is the process involved in making decisions about students’ learning progress. It includes the observation of students’ written work; their answers to question in class, and performance on Teacher-made and standardized tests. Classroom assessment provides valuable information that allows teachers to adapt instructional procedures to the learning needs of their students (Eggen & Kauchak 2004). Besides that, assessment also accomplishes two other important goals; increasing learning and increasing motivation. Travevers (2000) argued that assessment is a purposeful process in the classroom to collect data, both quantitative and qualitative. Hence, assessment is a broader concept than measurement.

             Data collection in an assessment is accomplished in a variety of ways such as; observation of behavior, presentation of tasks for students to perform mentally and to record their response in writing or examination of products produced by the students. For teachers, the purpose of assessment is usually to make decisions on his/her instructional strategies/method; this helps to determine the extent of objective covered. The decision could also be used to determine how students are performing in relation to an objective set or in relation to the performance of other students in the class. In analyzing this decision it will help the teacher to identify the learning difficulties students are having in learning the concept. In classroom assessment, consideration is given to students’ achievement on tasks in a variety of settings and contexts.

            Assessment of students’ achievement in any subject utilizes different assessment tools such as tests, questionnaire, observation, checklist, rating scales etc. In economics, an assessment tool such as test is utilized.  A test is a device for eliciting behavior or exposing some hidden characteristics, features and attributes and determining the intensity, quality and quantity of such behavior or characteristics (Ihekwaba, 2006). This means that a test is used to determine the presence or absence, existence or non-existence of an attribute being sought for. The attribute could be overt or co-overt. Osegbuo and Ifeakor (2008) argued that test is a set of standard questions presented to an individual or group of individuals to answer or respond to. These questions contain some desirable characteristics which examiner or tester is expecting from the testee. The responses made by the testee are indications of the extent of the desired characteristics possessed. Nworgu (2003) sees test as a structured situation comprising a set of questions to which an individual is expected to respond. There are preferred answers to the questions. On the basis of individual response,  behavior is quantified.

            Test can be classified under different reference frames like purpose of the test, format or mode of response to the test, mode of administration of the test, the aspect of human characteristics which is the target of the test as well as timing and the environment under which the test is taken. Broadly speaking, many researchers like Nwana (2007), Ogunniyi (1984), Ohuche and Akeju (1988) have classified test under the format frame into two: The free response type which includes the essay or extended free answer test and the restricted or short answer test; and the structured response type or objective type which includes the multiple choice type, the alternative response or true or false type, the fill-in the answer or completion type and the pairing or matching type. Osegbo and Ifeakor (2008) opined that Essay tests consist of a list of questions for which the student is required to write out the answers. They provide a basis for evaluating the ability to organize, integrate, and evaluate knowledge and skill. Responses to essay questions may also reflect students’ attitudes, creativeness and verbal fluency. In the similar vein, Anikwenze (2010) described essay tests as the traditional type of examination in which the examinee is to describe, define, compare and contrast, illustrate, classify, enumerate or state. These terms according to Anikwenze are commonly used for restricted type suitable for young people. While in extended types which are for older and more matured students, the terms used but not restricted to are discuss, explain, evaluate, analyze summaries or criticize. Essay item format can be short essay/ restricted free- response or extended free response / long essay. In extended free response, the testee is given the freedom to answer questions in as many pages as possible while for restricted free- response test items, the testees are allowed to organize and present their responses, but restricted to specific number of words or point (Onukwo, 2002).

            According to Bright (2007) essay or constructed response test has the following advantages; appropriate for measuring ability to select and organize ideas, writing abilities and problem solving skills, freedom to respond in own words etc . But in spite of all these advantages, it is also bedeviled with the following disadvantages; scoring is subjective and this creates inconsistency problem during marking of scripts, usually contain few questions and this makes it impossible for them to adequately cover the topics taught. Due to this point essay tests lacks content validity.

           The fill-in (FI) or completion test is an incomplete statement or sentence which the examinee completes from memory with a word or short phrase. The FI requires the student to know the correct answer rather than having to guess from a list of possible answers and is very rarely used in senior secondary school and higher institution testing and programs (Ogoamaka & Ihekwaba, 2010).It has the following advantage; it is easy to construct as options are eliminated, it provides little opportunity  for guessing as student are required to supply information, it requires more than recognition and recall, a relatively large content can be covered(Stephen,2007).Also Stephen (2007) noted that some disadvantages of FI format are that; scoring is less objective than multiple choice format, it may penalize the better students unduly and unduly help the weaker ones than multiple choice formats.

            Within the structured response test formats, experience has shown that the multiple choice test (MCT) has gained prominence and has become the main testing format in most schools and programs (Amuche, Thomas & Onesimus, 2013).The multiple choice test is a form of assessment tool in which respondents are asked to select the best answer out of the options in a given list. The correct choice is called the key while the other options are called distracters (Ogomaka & Ihekwuoba, 2011). Multiple choice test as a tool of assessment covers a wide range of course content, hence it has a greater content validity.MC test is difficult to construct, it cannot assess the ability of the students to organize and summarize ideas. However, in objective test, if the students are not instructed to answer all questions, some of them usually guess the answer to unknown question while others omit such question. Such guesses reflect personality characteristics instead of aptitude or achievement of the students involved. The guessers are at advantages since they are likely to take more correct than wrong chances on items whose subjects they are somehow unfamiliar with. Indeed by guessing answers for uncertain questions, students usually score higher than they deserved in an objective test. It is in recognition of this relative advantage in favor of the guessers that correction for guessing was introduced in scoring objectives test.

            No one type of test item format can be said to be the best. What really matters is the ability of the test type to measure aspects of learner achievement by recall or application of knowledge and by any other reliable demonstration of change in behavior after instruction (Anikwenze, 2010).However, it is important that in selecting tests at any point in time, the Teacher should ask some pertinent questions. What is to be measured? What was the objective of instruction? How will the measurement be used? What is the more appropriate test item type that is to be used for this purpose?

            The type of test commonly used by a teacher reveals the type of instructional objective usually attained by that teacher. For instance, a teacher who prefers objective tests that demand only recall items could be accused of not reaching instructional objectives for reasoning, creativity and expression. These higher order cognitive objectives are better assessed with easy type question. There is therefore the need for teachers to balance their test programme in such a way that various aspects of instructional objectives are assessed through the use of different test item formats. Some instructional objectives could be achieved through oral test; some with objective tests, some with essay test and others with performance test (Amuche, Thomas & Onesimus, 2013 and Anikweze, 2010).

        An achievement test is predominantly used to determine students’ achievement in a given instruction. Observations have shown that Nigerian Secondary school system use essay and multiple choice tests especially essay test format to ascertain the level of attainment of objectives after instruction. This shows imbalance in assessing domains of learning. For all round learning and assessment to be carried out, a variety of assessment tools should be utilized to establish achievement in learning process.

            Achievement is a thing that somebody has done successfully; especially using his/her own effort and skill. It implies the act or process of finishing something successfully; success then in the area of academic is what is referred to as academic achievement usually assessed with achievement test. Hence achievement refers to the degree of success reached or attained in some general or specific area (Enyi, 2004). In order words achievement is the extent of success attained by an individual. According to Eze (2009) achievement could be referred to as something very good or difficult which was carried out successfully. Students’ achievement is measured using achievement test. An achievement test is a testing instrument administered to an individual or group as stimuli to elicit certain desired or expected response as demanded in the instrument. According to Ali (2006) these expected response or performance of the individual students is assigned a score representing his/her ability. The score is an index of student’s achievement in a test.

               Achievement of students in Economics improved from 2004 to 2006 in the May/June Senior School Certificate Examination conducted by WAEC. But in November/December the same year the percentage of failure fluctuated from 21.29% in 2004 to 28.41% in 2005 and reduced to 24.37 percent in 2006. According to reports from the WAEC chief examiner in 2010 to 2012, it has been observed that despite all the efforts of the state and federal governments in providing materials and equipment for effective teaching and learning, students still achieve poorly in the internal and external examination especially in Economics (Osuagwu, 2011). Going by this trend, the subject by subject achievement analysis in the schools in Nnewi education zone visited by the researcher reveals poor achievement of students in the subjects. Also the Statistics Record of post primary schools service commission, Awka (2012) show that out of two hundred students that sat for Senior Secondary School Examination conducted by WAEC in the zone 26.5% credits and pass level while 73.5% results were failure. In line with this, the general comment of the WAEC chief Examiner’s report in 2012 Economics goes thus:

The standard of the paper was at par with those of the previous years. The rubrics were clearly stated and the questions were devoid of any ambiguity.  The marking scheme was comprehensive with marks well distributed. There was however, a slight drop in candidates’ performance when compared to those of the previous years. (p1)

            Several studies such as Ibanga (1997) in Accounting, Ifeamuyiwa (1998) in Mathematics, Okpara (2001) in Physics, Anuka (2002) in Financial Accounting and Adu (2002) in Economics have tried to identify the causes of poor achievement in school subjects and each has come out with the findings such as teachers’ incompetence in teaching, lack or poor training of teachers, inadequate facilities, broad economics content, students interest, students poor background to mention but a few. Furthermore, different studies blamed the poor achievement of students in both internal and external examination on test item format. Schohamy (2000) examined the effect of item format (multiple choice and open-ended items) and language of assessment (first language L1 verse second language L2) on performance in second language (L2) reading tests. The main conclusion drawn from the study was that item format can affect test scores. Also Ogoamaka and Ihekweaba (2010) opine that since real life problems do not present options that serve as distracters, the fill-in test format should be used more in secondary schools to prepare students for real life adaptation. But on the contrary, the study conducted by Williams (2007) opined that only item formats cannot be accountable to low or higher test scores.

         In spite of all these findings, students’ achievement has not improved significantly to justify the efforts of previous research studies. This situation, therefore calls for more research directed at identifying the actual problem associated with students’ achievement in Economics. The pertinent question pertaining to the poor achievement of students in Economics is could the Examiners’ choice of test item format be contribute to poor achievement in Economics? The researcher then seeks to investigate if test item type could influence students’ academic achievement in Economics. Therefore, this study intends to investigate the relative achievement of students on different achievement test item format in senior secondary school economics. This study also examines to determine the influence of gender on students’ achievement in Economics when exposed to different test item formats.

            Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between male and female, particularly in the cases of men and women, masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Gender is a social construct, it is not biologically determined but a concept equivalent to race or class (Offorma, 2004). This definition suggests that gender is socially or culturally constructed characteristics and role, which are associated with males and females in society. It is different from sex which is a biological distinction in appearance (morphology) and function (physiology) as well as reproductive contributions of men and women.  According to Lee (2001) gender is ascribed attribute that differentiates feminine from masculine. The difference in academic achievement in relation to gender and test item types is crucial to the educationists. Mazzeo, Schmitt and Bleitein (1992) found that females perform better than males on some performance based assessments (essays) in comparison to multiple choice formats. In a similar study Everaert and Arthur (2012) on constructed-response versus multiple choices indicated that female students outperform male students on both constructed-response and multiple choice type questions. However the superiority of female students is larger on constructed response questions than on multiple choice questions. Hence, female students have relative advantage over male students in constructed-response. Furthermore, male students have relative advantage over female students in the multiple-choice questions because their score is much larger for the multiple choice questions. However, Essien (2012) found that male students perform better than female counterparts in essay-type test items while the female students rather performed better in the multiple choice test items. Could a particular test item format favor either male or female better in Economics? The achievement differences between Male and Female on test item types is contradictory and inconclusive, making it imperative to investigate whether gender has any influence on test item type in economics achievement test. This study investigates whether test item types and gender influence achievement scores of Economics students in senior secondary school in Nnewi Education Zone of Anambra State.

Statement of the Problem

The achievement is measured through different assessment tools. The Curriculum of secondary school Economics stipulates that continuous assessment should be used to assess the level of student attainment or achievement. The curriculum does not state the test item format to be used in assessing students on continuous assessment but the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examinations Council (NECO) suggest multiple choice and essay test item type in measuring achievement in Secondary school. The demand of the curriculum and WAEC and NECO suggestions restrict divergent assessment tools in determining achievement in Economics. This creates a condition in which Essay test, multiple choice test, fill-in format, Matching test do not have equal or proper utilization in assessing achievement in Economics, thereby showing imbalance in terms of assessing the Cognitive, Psychomotor and affective domain of Learning.

       Observations have shown that Nigerian Secondary school system use essay test and multiple choice test to ascertain the level of attainment of objective. This shows imbalance in assessing students’ domains of learning. However, teachers may not have skills in constructing variety of test items. For all round learning and assessment to be carried out, a variety of assessment tools should be utilized to establish achievement in learning process. Therefore the problem of this study put in question form is what is the influence of test item types on academic achievement of secondary school Economics students?

Purpose of the study

The main purpose of this study is to determine the relative achievement of students on different Economics test-item formats in Secondary Schools in Nnewi Education Zone of Anambra State.

Specifically, the researcher seeks to determine the:

1.      Mean achievement scores of students in multiple choice, Fill-in, Matching and Essay test item format on students’ academic achievement in Senior Secondary economics.

2.       Mean scores of male and female students’ in  multiple choice achievement test item format in Economics

3.       Mean scores of male and female students’ in Fill-in achievement test item format in Economics.

4.       Mean scores of male and female students’ in matching achievement test item format in economics.

5.      Mean scores of male and female students’ in Essay achievement test item format in Economics.

Significance of the Study                                                                                       

It is hoped that the findings of this study will be of theoretical and practical significance. The findings of this study will be of theoretical significant because it will provide insight into the current attribution theory of achievement which will influence one’s success or failure in academics. In particular Fritz Heider (1958) attribution theory of achievement which holds that students’ failure or success is influenced or attributed to something. There must be causes of either poor achievement or higher achievement of students and the findings of the present study will be considered to be of theoretical significance because it will contribute additional empirical-driven theoretical body of knowledge on the attribution theory of achievement. The results of this study may strengthen the tenets of this theory and shall help to expand body of knowledge in the area of students’ achievement in Economics.

Also the findings of this study will be of practical significance to the following:  examination bodies, teachers, students, stake holders in Education and researchers. To examination bodies, it will reveal to them the extent of student achievement in different test item types used in assessing the students. Upon review the examination body will suggest to teachers the best assessment that will improve their teaching strategies and gear towards actualizing the objective of the curriculum. Also organize workshop and seminars to train teachers on how to use the assessment tools to achieve the objective of the lesson.

The teacher is the chief implementer of the curriculum. Achievement of students is a primary indicator of the extent teacher has covered the objective set out to achieve. High or poor achievement of students in different test item types will enable the teacher to restructure his instructional methodology and learning opportunities or experience provided to maximize the objectives of the lessons. Also teachers may be sent for training to acquire the art of instrument development and this will enable them to develop different test item formats/types.

To students, it will reveal to them the area of their strength and weakness in senior secondary economics. Upon review students will understand whether their ability to create ideas in providing answers to question pose to them in course of participating in teaching and learning process or when they do not have room to create ideas will improve or increase their achievement in economics.

To Stake holders in education, it will enable them to also direct their thinking that the poor achievement of students may be attributed to examiners choice of test item format or type leading to organizing Seminars, Workshops, Symposium, Calling for curriculum review in order to include different test item format/types in assessing students’ achievement.

Finally researchers will benefit from this study because the study will contribute to the bank of literature for the researchers that may subsequently carry out research in this area or related ones. This will as well reduce the problem of ‘no literature syndrome’ in carrying research.

Scope of the Study

The study was limited to Economics Senior Secondary II Student in Nnewi Education zone of Anambra State. The choice of SSII students is borne out of their maturity and they have been exposed to the topics to be covered by the study, thus they already have good knowledge of the topics. In addition the topics covered were: Basic tools for economic analysis, production, theory of demand and supply, and inflation. The test item formats that were used for this study were: Essay, Multiple choice, fill-in and matching test item formats. Also achievement of students in different test item types due to gender was examined in this study.

Research Questions

 The following research questions were posed for this study.

 1.   What are the mean achievement scores of students in multiple choice, fill-in, matching and essay test item formats on students’ academic achievement in senior secondary economics?      

2.    What are the mean scores of male and female on multiple choice test item format in Economics?

3.    What are the mean scores of male and female on Fill-in test item format in Economics?

4.    What are the mean scores of male and female on matching test format in Economics?

5.    What are the mean scores of male and female on essay test item format in Economics?


         The following hypotheses were formulated for this study and will be tested at 0.05 level of significance.

Ho1. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students in multiple choice, fill-in, matching and essay test item formats in Senior Secondary Economics.

Ho2. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of Male and Female students in multiple choice test item format in Economics.

Ho3. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of Male and Female students in Fill-in test item format in Economics.

Ho4. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of Male and Female students in matching test item format in Economics.

Ho5. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of Male and Female students in essay test item format in Economics.



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