Development of a tool to assess inference-making and reasoning in biology

Jennifer G. Cromley, Ting Dai, Tia S. Fechter, Frank E. Nelson, Martin van Boekel, Yang Du

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Making inferences and reasoning with new scientific information is critical for successful performance in biology coursework. Thus, identifying students who are weak in these skills could allow the early provision of additional support and course placement recommendations to help students develop their reasoning abilities, leading to better performance and less attrition within biology courses. Researchers across universities partnered to develop a measure to assess students' inference-making abilities in biology. We describe the development of the inference-making and reasoning in biology assessment (IMRB). The IMRB is a 15-item multiple-choice assessment that uses short paragraphs of content-from the most-used textbook-taught at the end of a semester of survey biology courses designed for science majors. Based on our research, when the IMRB is conducted at the beginning of a semester, it measures deductive reasoning with new biology information, is fair across various student groups, and is reliable. The IMRB can be used with or without SAT or ACT scores to place students into regular undergraduate introductory biology courses, to predict grades in such courses, and/or to identify students who may need extra support or remediation in reasoning with new biology information. The IMRB is available free of charge to interested faculty and researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00159-21
JournalJournal of Microbiology and Biology Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Assessment
  • Biology
  • Deductive
  • Grade
  • Inference
  • Measure
  • Predict
  • Reasoning
  • Retention
  • STEM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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