Monetary incentives for low-stakes tests

Harold F. O'Neil, Jamal Abedi, Judy Miyoshi, Ann Mastergeorge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


This research attempted to discover the degree to which performance on assessments that have no direct consequences for individual students can be attributed to students' motivational states in addition to their underlying achievement in the domains measured. If such findings were reliable, it would allow us to correct underestimates of domain performance due to lack of motivation. Such corrections would be extremely interesting in explaining differential subgroup performance in state or national assessments that have institutional but not individual consequences. Recent information on international assessments (e.g., the Third International Mathematics and Science Study [TIMSS]) indicates that 12th-grade students in the United States are doing poorly on such assessments compared with their peers in other countries. These poor results are usually attributed to cognitive factors such as students' opportunities to learn, etc. However, a partial explanation may be motivational. Because the low-stakes tests were administered in these 12th-graders' final year in high school, this timing may have negatively affected motivation, and thus performance. Using TIMSS released math items, we provided $10.00 per item correct so as to increase a motivational effect and thus increase performance. However, the monetary incentive was not effective in improving performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-208
Number of pages24
JournalEducational Assessment
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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