General chemistry tests from the Examinations Institute of the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society have been analyzed to identify factors that may influence how individual test items perform. In this paper, issues of item order (position within a set of items that comprise a test) and answer order (position of correct answer relative to incorrect distractors) are discussed. Answer order is identified as potentially important, particularly for conceptually based items. When the correct answer appears earlier among the answer choices, there is some greater propensity for student performance to be better. Item-order effects are also possible, particularly when students encounter several challenging items consecutively. Performance on the next item may be lower than expected, possibly because of cognitive-load effects.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/thomas_holme/38/