Influence of response instructions and response format on applicant perceptions of a Situational Judgement Test for medical school selection
BMC Medical Education , Volume 18 - Issue 1 p. 282- 291
BACKGROUND: This study examined the influence of two Situational Judgement Test (SJT) design features (response instructions and response format) on applicant perceptions. Additionally, we investigated demographic subgroup differences in applicant perceptions of an SJT. METHODS: Medical school applicants (N = 372) responded to an online survey on applicant perceptions, including a description and two example items of an SJT. Respondents randomly received one of four SJT versions (should do-rating, should do-pick-one, would do-rating, would do-pick-one). They rated overall favourability and items on four procedural justice factors (face validity, applicant differentiation, study relatedness and chance to perform) and ease-of-cheating. Additionally, applicant perceptions were compared for subgroups based on gender, ethnic background and first-generation university status. RESULTS: Applicants rated would-do instructions as easier to cheat than should-do instructions. Rating formats received more favourable judgements than pick-one formats on applicant differentiation, study-relatedness, chance to perform and ease of cheating. No significant main effect for demographic subgroup on applicant perceptions was found, but significant interaction effects showed that certain subgroups might have more pronounced preferences for certain SJT design features. Specifically, ethnic minority applicants - but not ethnic majority applicants - showed greater preference for should-do than would-do instructions. Additionally, first-generation university students - but not non-first-generation university students - were more favourable of rating formats than of pick-one formats. CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate that changing SJT design features may positively affect applicant perceptions by promoting procedural justice factors and reducing perceived ease of cheating and that response instructions and response format can increase the attractiveness of SJTs for minority applicants.