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Concept: Standardized test


Many US biomedical PhD programs receive more applications for admissions than they can accept each year, necessitating a selective admissions process. Typical selection criteria include standardized test scores, undergraduate grade point average, letters of recommendation, a resume and/or personal statement highlighting relevant research or professional experience, and feedback from interviews with training faculty. Admissions decisions are often founded on assumptions that these application components correlate with research success in graduate school, but these assumptions have not been rigorously tested. We sought to determine if any application components were predictive of student productivity measured by first-author student publications and time to degree completion. We collected productivity metrics for graduate students who entered the umbrella first-year biomedical PhD program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2008-2010 and analyzed components of their admissions applications. We found no correlations of test scores, grades, amount of previous research experience, or faculty interview ratings with high or low productivity among those applicants who were admitted and chose to matriculate at UNC. In contrast, ratings from recommendation letter writers were significantly stronger for students who published multiple first-author papers in graduate school than for those who published no first-author papers during the same timeframe. We conclude that the most commonly used standardized test (the general GRE) is a particularly ineffective predictive tool, but that qualitative assessments by previous mentors are more likely to identify students who will succeed in biomedical graduate research. Based on these results, we conclude that admissions committees should avoid over-reliance on any single component of the application and de-emphasize metrics that are minimally predictive of student productivity. We recommend continual tracking of desired training outcomes combined with retrospective analysis of admissions practices to guide both application requirements and holistic application review.

Concepts: College, School, Graduate school, Test, Bachelor's degree, Standardized test, Graduate Record Examination, Statement of purpose


Using test data for all children attending Danish public schools between school years 2009/10 and 2012/13, we examine how the time of the test affects performance. Test time is determined by the weekly class schedule and computer availability at the school. We find that, for every hour later in the day, test performance decreases by 0.9% of an SD (95% CI, 0.7-1.0%). However, a 20- to 30-minute break improves average test performance by 1.7% of an SD (95% CI, 1.2-2.2%). These findings have two important policy implications: First, cognitive fatigue should be taken into consideration when deciding on the length of the school day and the frequency and duration of breaks throughout the day. Second, school accountability systems should control for the influence of external factors on test scores.

Concepts: Education, Psychometrics, High school, Test, Standardized test


Using a multilevel approach, we estimated the effects of classroom ventilation rate and temperature on academic achievement. The analysis is based on measurement data from a 70 elementary school district (140 fifth grade classrooms) from Southwestern United States, and student level data (N = 3109) on socioeconomic variables and standardized test scores. There was a statistically significant association between ventilation rates and mathematics scores, and it was stronger when the six classrooms with high ventilation rates that were indicated as outliers were filtered (> 7.1 l/s per person). The association remained significant when prior year test scores were included in the model, resulting in less unexplained variability. Students' mean mathematics scores (average 2286 points) were increased by up to eleven points (0.5%) per each liter per second per person increase in ventilation rate within the range of 0.9-7.1 l/s per person (estimated effect size 74 points). There was an additional increase of 12-13 points per each 1°C decrease in temperature within the observed range of 20-25°C (estimated effect size 67 points). Effects of similar magnitude but higher variability were observed for reading and science scores. In conclusion, maintaining adequate ventilation and thermal comfort in classrooms could significantly improve academic achievement of students.

Concepts: Statistics, Mathematics, Statistical significance, Psychometrics, Effect size, Statistical power, Test, Standardized test


Children living in poverty generally perform poorly in school, with markedly lower standardized test scores and lower educational attainment. The longer children live in poverty, the greater their academic deficits. These patterns persist to adulthood, contributing to lifetime-reduced occupational attainment.

Concepts: Psychometrics, Test, Standardized test


PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets) is a treatment approach for the improvement of speech sound disorders in children, which uses tactile cues to support and shape movements of the oral articulators. No research to date has systematically examined the efficacy of PROMPT for children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). Methods Four children (3.6-4.8), all meeting the ASHA (2007) criteria for CAS were treated. All children received 8 weeks, 2×/week of treatment including at least 4 weeks of full PROMPT treatment, including tactile cues. During the first four weeks, two of the four children received treatment which included all PROMPT components except tactile information. This design permitted both between-subject and within-subject comparisons to evaluate the effect of tactile cues. Gains in treatment were measured by standardized tests and by criterion referenced measures based on the production of untreated probe words, reflecting change in speech movements and auditory perceptual accuracy.

Concepts: Psychometrics, Sense, Somatosensory system, Phonetics, Norm-referenced test, Standardized test, Criterion-referenced test, Apraxia


Illness perceptions about heart disease may influence related health behaviors. The purpose of this study was to test the psychometric properties of an Arabic version of the Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ) for heart disease.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Epidemiology, Educational psychology, Psychometrics, Francis Galton, Test, Standardized test


The aim of the study was to evaluate the effects of synthetic feline interdigital semiochemical (FIS) on the induction of scratching behaviour in cats during a standardised behavioural test. The trial was a randomised blinded study on a single group of subjects, following a crossover design. The scratching behaviour of 19 cats was evaluated during a standardised test in which cats were introduced to an area with one scratching post. Each cat acted as its own control (receiving, at random, FIS then placebo or vice versa). The test lasted for 5 mins, after which the cat was left alone in the test area. Duration, frequency of scratching and latency of first scratching behaviour were noted. Two independent observers analysed the videos. Thirty-eight tests were recorded with a different scratching post each time (two tests per cat). The scratching post with the semiochemical was more scratched in duration and frequency by the cats involved in the study (intention to treat analysis). The same conclusion was found using per-protocol analysis, which included only cats that scratched during the test. Regarding latency, no significant difference was found between treatment and placebo. The results seem of interest in explaining the role of a FIS in inducing scratching behaviour on a scratching post. The semiochemical approach can modify the choice of areas selected spontaneously by cats, and could be used either as a preventive measure for a cat arriving at home or to control or change an inappropriate scratching behaviour.

Concepts: Crossover study, Cat, Felidae, Castration, Intention to treat analysis, Felis, Standardized test, Scratching post



During high school, developing competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is critically important as preparation to pursue STEM careers, yet students in the United States lag behind other countries, ranking 35th in mathematics and 27th in science achievement internationally. Given the importance of STEM careers as drivers of modern economies, this deficiency in preparation for STEM careers threatens the United States' continued economic progress. In the present study, we evaluated the long-term effects of a theory-based intervention designed to help parents convey the importance of mathematics and science courses to their high-school-aged children. A prior report on this intervention showed that it promoted STEM course-taking in high school; in the current follow-up study, we found that the intervention improved mathematics and science standardized test scores on a college preparatory examination (ACT) for adolescents by 12 percentile points. Greater high-school STEM preparation (STEM course-taking and ACT scores) was associated with increased STEM career pursuit (i.e., STEM career interest, the number of college STEM courses, and students' attitudes toward STEM) 5 y after the intervention. These results suggest that the intervention can affect STEM career pursuit indirectly by increasing high-school STEM preparation. This finding underscores the importance of targeting high-school STEM preparation to increase STEM career pursuit. Overall, these findings demonstrate that a motivational intervention with parents can have important effects on STEM preparation in high school, as well as downstream effects on STEM career pursuit 5 y later.

Concepts: Psychometrics, High school, Secondary education, College, Standardized test, Education in the United States, General Educational Development, High School Musical


Portion size education tools, aids and interventions can be effective in helping prevent weight gain. However consumers have difficulties in estimating food portion sizes and are confused by inconsistencies in measurement units and terminologies currently used. Visual cues are an important mediator of portion size estimation, but standardized measurement units are required. In the current study, we present a new food volume estimation tool and test the ability of young adults to accurately quantify food volumes. The International Food Unit™ (IFU™) is a 4x4x4 cm cube (64cm(3)), subdivided into eight 2 cm sub-cubes for estimating smaller food volumes. Compared with currently used measures such as cups and spoons, the IFU™ standardizes estimation of food volumes with metric measures. The IFU™ design is based on binary dimensional increments and the cubic shape facilitates portion size education and training, memory and recall, and computer processing which is binary in nature.

Concepts: Volume, Measurement, Test method, Estimation, Units of measurement, Standardized test