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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Anatomical Sciences Education, Volume 6, Issue 5, September 2013, Pages 281-285.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1002/ase.1357. Copyright © American Association of Anatomists


Untimed examinations are popular with students because there is a perception that first impressions may be incorrect, and that difficult questions require more time for reflection. In this report, we tested the hypothesis that timed anatomy practical examinations are inherently more difficult than untimed examinations. Students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Thomas Jefferson University were assessed on their understanding of anatomic relationships using multiple-choice questions. For the class of 2012 (n = 46), students were allowed to circulate freely among 40 testing stations during the 40-minute testing session. For the class of 2013 (n = 46), students were required to move sequentially through the 40 testing stations (one minute per item). Students in both years were given three practical examinations covering the back/upper limb, lower limb, and trunk. An identical set of questions was used for both groups of students (untimed and timed examinations). Our results indicate that there is no significant difference between student performance on untimed and timed examinations (final percent scores of 87.3 and 88.9, respectively). This result also held true for students in the top and bottom 20th percentiles of the class. Moreover, time limits did not lead to errors on even the most difficult, higher-order questions (i.e., items with P-values < 0.70). Thus, limiting time at testing stations during an anatomy practical examination does not adversely affect student performance.

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