Second-chance Testing Course Policies and Student Behavior

Geoffrey Herman, Kavya Varghese, Craig Zilles

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In this research category full paper, we present our findings on the effects of different course policies for seconxd-chance testing on students' studying and exam taking behavior. Second-chance testing, where students are allowed to take a second instance of an exam for some form of grade replacement, is a less expensive approximation of mastery-based learning that can be easily integrated into a broad range of college course structures. It encourages students to review course material after poor performance on an examination but limits the amount of resources instructors must invest in the creation of examinations or in grading them. There exists, however, a large space of potential course policies for integrating second-chance testing into a course and little prior research on how these policies affect student behavior.This paper analyzes three different grading policies in use at Midwestern University. All of the policies attempt to encourage students to prepare adequately for the first-chance exam and review the material again before the second-chance exam, if they elect to take it. The first policy used a partial grade replacement policy with insurance: students' grades could only improve by taking the second-chance exam but the first-chance exam always counts for at least one-third of a students' grade on the examination. The second policy is identical, but required students to complete a zero-credit, online-homework assignment before being allowed to take the second-chance exam. The third policy implemented full grade replacement (even if the second score is lower) and capped the score that could be achieved on the second exam. By comparing these different course policies, we show that grading policies have a significant effect on whether students take second-chance exams.We also performed a quasi-experimental study, adding second-chance exams to a course. We present data from students' exam performance and from the course's learning management system that suggest that adding a second-chance exam had no effect on student performance or study habits for the first-chance exam. However, the total amount of time that students studied did increase substantially as students who took the second-chance exam studied an additional 60% of their original effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2019
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781728117461
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Event49th IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2019 - Covington, United States
Duration: Oct 16 2019Oct 19 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Conference49th IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • STEM
  • assessment
  • higher education
  • second-chance testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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