A very recent study at Regis University School of Pharmacy, which won best poster at the Team Based Learning Cooperative’s Annual Meeting, determined that students preferred timed tests vs. tests with no time limits.  Students also indicated that they preferred to be told that five minutes remained once fifty percent of the class had completed the iRAT (variable time limit) vs. being informed of the ttal time allotted to complete the iRAT (defined time limit).  (Richetti, C. et al, 2012)

This has value for us to explore.  The investigators were addressing the problem of “down time” in RATs where some students have finished and others have not.  Of the students surveyed (74) 97% responded to suggest that using the strategy of variable time limits was useful, and not likely to induce as much anxiety as the defined time limit.

Why not try this method with your students when you give a RAT?  Carefully observe, (and if there is another facilitator with you, use her/his observations) to determine when half the class has completed the RAT.  Some of our faculty ask students to raise a hand when the group or individual has finished a RAT, or use some other signal like a green card attached on their group clipboard.  That will enable you to give a “5 minute warning” to the rest of the class.

If you try this, please let us know what your findings are.

By the way, the investigators also found some additional benefits of timing RATs from their survey:

Our survey determined that the timing of iRATs decreases “down-time”, helps students increase their confidence in their ability to perform well on timed exams (e.g. board exams) and provides more time to focus on applications[tasks]. While students reported an increase in anxiety caused by the timing of iRATs, they reported they preferred the timed iRATs over the iRATs that were not timed.

Richetti, Charlotte, Brunner, Jason M., Fete, Matthew, Luckey, Stephen. & Nelson, Michael. (2012). “Student Perceptions on the Value of Timing Readiness Assurance Tests.  Poster presented at TBLC Annual Meeting, St. Petersburg.