Can Computerized Adaptive Testing Work in Students' Admission to Higher Education Programs in Turkey?

By Kalender, Ilker; Berberoglu, Giray | Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri, April 2017 | Go to article overview

Can Computerized Adaptive Testing Work in Students' Admission to Higher Education Programs in Turkey?


Kalender, Ilker, Berberoglu, Giray, Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri


The Challenges of the Admission System

University admission is as an extremely important issue in countries whose higher education programs have limited capacity. As a typical example, university admission in Turkey is extremely competitive because of higher education being in such high demand while also being of limited capacity relative to applicants. Although the number of potential students taking the high stake two-stage university examination continues to increase each year, only 1/3rd of them are selected and placed in higher education programs. For example, in 2015, while 2,126,684 students applied for university admission, a mere 983,090 were actually placed in a four year higher education program (Measurement, Selection and Placement Center [MSPC], 2015). Basically, the Higher Education Transition Examination (HETE) and Undergraduate Placement Examination (UPE) are paper-based tests (PBT) used in Turkey's university admission process. The HETE is used to screen and select students for the second stage. Containing Quantitative and Verbal sections, the HETE focuses on students' ability to use basic concepts and principles learned during their previous years of formal educational. In order to take the UPE, students' HETE scores should pass a specific cut-off score. Thus, since the bulk of students take the HETE, it represents one of the major challenges both for students and test administrators. While passing the cut-off score is students' major concern, test administrators are more concerned with the test being administrated in a secure and standard manner for such a large group.

Such a high demand for university education renders the selection process quite challenging in Turkey. The greatest problem is the stress and anxiety that students experience during their senior year in high school since they have only one chance per year to be admitted into a university. High school graduates lose one year in their educational career if their HETE scores do not pass the cut-off or if their UPE score is insufficient to place them into a university program. In such an event, one usually retakes the examination the following year, causing a tremendous increase in the number of students taking the examination each successive year. In 2015, for instance, of the entire 2,126,684 individuals taking the HETE test, only 891,090 had graduated high school that year and the rest consisted of those students who had previously failed the examinations (MSPC, 2015). Such a large group being tested on the same day and at the same time creates a major problem in ensuring test security. Acting as venues for the test's application, school buildings' facilities as well as the necessary personnel to monitor the examination are two other major issues in need of attention. Another issue requiring attention is related to the confidentiality of the test content. Since students, parents, and school teachers are greatly concerned about the questions used on the test forms, it is not possible to keep them absolutely confidential. Test questions had been officially released to the public until 2012, after which only a small portion of the questions have been released by the MSPC each year. Yet, the remaining questions are leaked out to the public by test takers taking the test simply to make them available to the public. Even more recently, the center has begun to release all of the the items used in the admission tests based on the order of court. Thus, since test questions are known by the examinees before the actual test, another potential problem is equating test scores from one year into another (Berberoglu, 2012; Kolen & Brennan, 2004).

In Turkey, university candidates come from various educational and family backgrounds. First of all, there are different types of high schools within the Turkish educational system, with some being more privileged and representing groups of higher ability. On the other hand, public schools are more heterogeneous in terms of students' ability distributions, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. …

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