Fostering dental student self-assessment of knowledge by confidence scoring of multiple-choice examinations

Clyde A Mcmahan, R. Neal Pinckard, Anne Cale Jones, William D. Hendricson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Creating a learning environment that fosters student acquisition of self-assessment behaviors and skills is critically important in the education and training of health professionals. Self-assessment is a vital component of competent practice and lifelong learning. This article proposes applying a version of confidence scoring of multiple-choice questions as one avenue to address this crucial educational objective for students to be able to recognize and admit what they do not know. The confidence scoring algorithm assigns one point for a correct answer, deducts fractional points for an incorrect answer, but rewards students fractional points for leaving the question unanswered in admission that they are unsure of the correct answer. The magnitude of the reward relative to the deduction is selected such that the expected gain due to random guessing, even after elimination of all but one distractor, is never greater than the reward. Curricular implementation of this confidence scoring algorithm should motivate health professions students to develop self-assessment behaviors and enable them to acquire the skills necessary to critically evaluate the extent of their current knowledge throughout their professional careers. This is a professional development competency that is emphasized in the educational standards of the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1643-1653
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Assessment
  • Dental education
  • Formula scoring
  • Lifelong learning
  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Self-assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Dentistry(all)


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