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SAT Test Takers and Their Testing Outcomes JRP

SAT Test Takers and Their Testing Outcomes JRP

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Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007) 715–722www.elsevier.com/locate/jrp0092-6566/$ - see front matter
©
2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2006.06.005
Brief Report
Testing 1, 2, 3, ƒ4? The personality of repeatSAT test takers and their testing outcomes
Michael J. Zyphur
a,
¤
, Gazi Islam
b
, Ronald S. Landis
c
a
Department of Management and Organization, National University of Singapore, Singapore
b
IBMEC, Sao Paolo, Brazil 
c
Department of Psychology, Tulane University, USA
Available online 4 August 2006
Abstract
The current study considered the correlates of test retaking. In particular, the personality trait of neuroticism was proposed to be related to retaking the SAT test. Results revealed that, accountingfor initial SAT score and the other Big Five factors of personality, neuroticism predicted the numberof times an individual took the SAT before attending college. Further, the results of a latent growthmodel indicated that, for those who retook the SAT, test scores showed improvement over time.None of the Big Five predicted changes in SAT scores. Results are discussed in light of the possiblebene
W
ts of high levels of neuroticism for SAT score improvement.
©
2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords:
Neuroticism; SAT; Reactions to selection measures; Personality; Big
W
ve
1. Introduction
Cognitive ability tests are used in organizational and academic settings for screeningapplicants and making selection decisions (Dunn, Mount, Barrick, & Ones, 1995). Due tothe “high stakes” outcomes associated with these tests, some individuals retake theseexams to improve their scores and, thus, improve their chances of being selected. Althoughthe motivation to retake these tests is somewhat self-evident, little is known about whysome people are more likely to engage in this behavior than others.
*
Corresponding author.
E-mail address:
 zyphurmj@yahoo.com(M.J. Zyphur).
 
716
M.J. Zyphur et al. / Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007) 715–722
Psychological literature attempting to link personality traits with performance hasrecently come to the forefront of topics related to selection (Schmit & Ryan, 1993).Much of this research has been based on the “Big Five” conceptualization of personal-ity (e.g.,Barick & Mount, 1991). Typically, these personality factors have been shownto explain variance in subsequent performance over and above the cognitive abilitymeasures that have traditionally been used in making selection decisions (Salgado,1997).Less explored, however, is the intersection of personality and cognitive ability tests interms of preparation for and performance in such tests. That is, although cognitive abilityhas been established as a selection measure, little work explores the predictors of test retak-ing from a personality perspective. The current study addressed test retaking by arguingthat neuroticism, which is characterized by anxiety and rumination (McCrae & Costa,1987), should be strongly related to test retaking.Although the links between personality traits and cognitive ability have been exploredin the past (Thomas & Hersen, 2003), establishing such a link is not within the scope of thecurrent study. Rather, emphasis here is placed on understanding the role of neuroticism inrelation to measures of general intelligence, as a factor which a
ects the psychological con-text of test taking and score interpretation. Thus, the current focus is on evaluating theextent to which neuroticism is related to the number of times an individual takes an intelli-gence measure meant to be used for institutional admission decisions.Extant research pertaining to the domain of repeated measurements of cognitive abilityover time (Strand, 2004) does not address the personality of individuals who voluntarilychoose to retake these exams. Given the important outcomes associated with tests of cogni-tive ability, uncertainty and anxiety over the probability of acceptance into an institution islikely to in
X
uence an individual’s decision to retake an exam. The current study adopted amodel of both environmental factors and individual di
erences to explain the variableswhich are expected to relate to this type of anxiety.First, environmental inputs are likely to cue the possibility of rejection due to the scoreone receives on an exam. Speci
W
cally, the actual test score one attains on a given exam islikely to cue worry over the possibility of acceptance. Formally,
Hypothesis1.
Initial test score will be negatively related to the number of times an individ-ual takes an exam used for admissions purposes.Second, controlling for an examinee’s initial test score, those more likely to experienceanxiety and uncertainty will likely retake the exam; more neurotic people are likely to per-ceive that their score is not adequate for entrance into an institution (seeMogg, Bradley,Miles, & Dixon, 2004) and, therefore, are more likely to retake an exam.
Hypothesis2.
Neuroticism will be positively related to the number of times an individualtakes an exam used for admissions purposes.
2. Method
 2.1. Participants
Data were collected from graduating seniors at Tulane University during the 2003–2004and 2004–2005 academic years. Approximately 2500 surveys were mailed to students with
 
M.J. Zyphur et al. / Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007) 715–722
717
enough credits to be seniors. Precisely 207 usable responses were obtained, 69% of whichwere from females; the average age was 21.78 years (
SD
D
1.61).While the response rate appears to be less than 10%, the actual response rate may behigher. First, surveys were mailed out near the time of graduation, when many seniorsmay have already vacated their residences. Second, while surveys were mailed to allstudents with enough credits to be seniors, surveys were addressed to “graduatingseniors,” likely prompting students who were not graduating to discard the survey.
 2.2. Measures
Neuroticism and the other factors of the Big Five were measured using a 20-itemanalog of the revised NEO personality inventory (Goldberg, 1999). The reliabilities of the scales were adequate (see the on-diagonal elements of Table 1). Respondent tran-scripts revealed the number of times an individual had taken the SAT and their respec-tive scores. For descriptive statistics of study variables, seeTable 1.
3. Results
A cursory examination of Table 1shows that initial SAT score was negativelyrelated to the number of times an individual chose to take the SAT, while neuroticismwas positively related to this number. To test Hypothesis 1 and 2, a Poisson’s regressionmodel was employed. This was required because test retaking is a count variable. Countvariables occur as a function of Poisson’s processes, which require computing relation-ships based on a probability function of being in one of the count-outcome categories(e.g., having taken the test once, twice, etc.). These models also automatically take intoaccount the non-normality of count variables which have small means. For example,here, the dependent variable was positively skewed (frequencies: 1
D
81, 2
D
98, 3
D
31and 4
D
4).Analyses were conducted in the program Mplus (seeMuthén & Muthén, 1998–2006).All relationships were assessed using a maximum-likelihood estimator robust tonon-normality. All reported beta coe
Y
cients are Poisson-based regression coe
Y
cientsstandardized to the variances of the respective independent and dependent variables.
Tae 1Means, standard deviations and intercorrelations among study variables
Notes. N,
207; TT, the number of times individuals took the SAT; SAT, initial score on the SAT; N, neuroticism;E, extraversion; O, openness to new experience; A, agreeableness; C, conscientiousness.
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