Testing at Extremes

Males running to extremes on abilities tests may be more a reflection of their test-taking behavior than of some difference from females in the distribution of underlying capacities. Testosterone-induced competitiveness could lead those males who percieve that they are doing well to push for even greater performance while those who see themselves doing less well slack off to hide their pride or drop out of the competition altogether. At the same time, test-making behavior guarantees the equivalence of male and female means on general abilities tests since item selection is adjusted to accomplish that outcome. This equivalence of means and difference at the extremes is demonstrated for a collection of seventy-four different cognitive abilities tests in the figure below, which is taken, with some enhancement, from Figure 7 of Nancy S. Cole, The ETS Gender Study: How Females and Males Perform in Academic Settings Pinceton: Educational Testing Service, May 1997, p. 19. A broader discussion of this ETS analysis of variability appears in Warren W. Willingham & Nancy S. Cole, Gender and Fair Assessment , Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997, pp. 51-53, 84, 95. A core document is Larry V. Hedges and Amy Nowell, "Sex Differences in Mental Test Scores, Variability, and Numbers of High-Scoring Individuals," Science, 269 (7 July 1995), pp. 41-45.

Score Distributions

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