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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The subjective difficulty of spatial ability tests Schroeder, Klaus Gerhard


Tests of Spatial Orientation (Card Rotations, Cube Comparisons) and Visualization (Form Board, Paper Folding, Surface Development) were administered to 537 (266 men, 268 women) university students. Participants rated the perceived difficulty of each of the tests on a 9 point scale ranging from 1 = very easy to 9 = very difficult. They were asked to indicate which of six problem solving strategies they used to solve the items on any particular test. The strategy statements were designed to tap part or whole problem solving strategies. Part strategies involved concentrating on salient aspects of a stimulus while whole strategies involved concentrating on an entire stimulus. Since men scored higher than women on all five tests analyses were performed separately for the sexes. For both men and women the first principal component accounted for more than 50% of the variance. Thus, previous findings of two spatial factors for men and one spatial factor for women were not supported. Problem solving strategy did not relate to performance on the spatial tests nor to difficulty ratings. There were no consistent sex differences in strategy except that women indicated that they guessed more on all tests. The limitations of introspective reports were discussed. For both men and women the perceived difficulty of a particular test correlated more highly with the total score on that test than with the total score on any other test. On the basis of this finding it was concluded that the difficulty index is a valuable one worthy of further study. The finding that men and women did not differ on mean difficulty rating on three of the tests, even though they differed significantly in performance on all tests, was interpreted to mean that each person subjectively rank orders the tests in terms of difficulty. It was hypothesized that the perceived difficulty of a test is, therefore, a function of the other tests included for study. There was moderate support for the hypothesis that, as the difference in rated difficulty for pairs of tests increases, the correlation between the two decreases. This was the case for six of 10 comparisons for men and three of 10 comparisons for women. It was suggested that this hypothesis would receive stronger support if tests of more distinct abilities were included in the same study.

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