Gender Differences in Multiple-choice Questions And the Risk of Losing Points


I study the gender differences in performance in multiple-choice questions (MCQ) in a setting where wrong answers are penalized and the objective is to score as many points as possible. I exploit data from an undergraduate level microeconomics course at a Finnish university across a six-year period of 2010 and 2012–2016. The course consists of two equally weighted exams that include both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. The results show that, when controlling for the performance in the first midterm exam, women omit more MCQ items in the second exam than men, which, in turn, translates to fewer points. Women do not do worse in the open-ended questions that are similar to the MCQ’s, and neither is the probability of women answering incorrectly to the MCQ’s higher. Hence, gender differences in test results might reflect differences in behavior in a very particular test setting rather than genuine differences in skills.

Journal of the Finnish Economic Association, Vol. 4. No. 1 (2023), 36-45.

Publication info

Gender difference, Exam behavior, Risk preference
I20, J16, D81
Publisher / series
Journal of the Finnish Economic Association, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2023)
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