Test Item Formats in Finnish Chemistry Matriculation Examinations

University of Helsinki, Finland


The main purpose of the research was to illustrate chemistry matriculation examination questions as a summative assessment tool, and represent how the questions have evolved over the years. Summative assessment and its various test item classifications, Finnish goal-oriented curriculum model, and Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives formed the theoretical framework for the research.

The research data consisted of 257 chemistry questions from 28 matriculation examinations between 1996 and 2009. The analysed test questions were formulated according to the national upper secondary school chemistry curricula 1994, and 2003. Qualitative approach and theory-driven content analysis method were employed in the research. Peer review was used to guarantee the reliability of the results. The research was guided by the following questions: (a) What kinds of test item formats are used in chemistry matriculation examinations? (b) How the fundamentals of chemistry are included in the chemistry matriculation examination questions? (c) What kinds of cognitive knowledge and skills do the chemistry matriculation examination questions require?

The research indicates that summative assessment was used diversely in chemistry matriculation examinations. The tests included various test item formats, and their combinations. The majority of the test questions were constructed-response items that were either verbal, quantitative, or experimental questions, symbol questions, or combinations of the aforementioned. The studied chemistry matriculation examinations seldom included selected-response items that can be either multiple-choice, alternate choice, or matching items. The relative emphasis of the test item formats differed slightly depending on whether the test was a part of an extensive general studies battery of tests in sciences and humanities, or a subject-specific test. The classification framework developed in the research can be applied in chemistry and science education, and also in educational research.

Chemistry matriculation examinations are based on the goal-oriented curriculum model, and cover relatively well the fundamentals of chemistry included in the national curriculum. Most of the test questions related to the symbolism of chemical equation, inorganic and organic reaction types and applications, the bonding and spatial structure in organic compounds, and stoichiometry problems. Only a few questions related to electrolysis, polymers, or buffer solutions. None of the test questions related to composites. There were not any significant differences in the emphasis between the tests formulated according to the national curriculum 1994 or 2003.

Chemistry matriculation examinations are cognitively demanding. The research shows that the majority of the test questions require higher-order cognitive skills. Most of the questions required analysis of procedural knowledge. The questions that only required remembering or processing metacognitive knowledge, were not included in the research data. The required knowledge and skill level varied slightly between the test questions in the extensive general studies battery of tests in sciences and humanities, and subject-specific tests administered since 2006. The proportion of the Finnish chemistry matriculation examination questions requiring higher-order cognitive knowledge and skills is very large compared to what is discussed in the research literature.


Greta Tikkanen
Department of Chemistry
University of Helsinki
Language: Finnish
ISBN 978-952-10-6336-7 (PDF), 
www: https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/21074 

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