Stretched Too Much? A Case Study of Engineering Exam-Related Predicted Performance, Electrodermal Activity, and Heart Rate

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

SEFI 47th Annual Conference


Société Européene puor la Formation des Ingénieurs


Budapest, Hungary

Publication Date


Award Number

NSF, Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) 1661100


NSF, Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)

First Page


Last Page



Test writing is one of the essential activities that university faculty must do. Evidence-based instructional practice indicates that the exam content and difficulty should match the content taught in the course. Many faculty, however, hold the belief that tests should “stretch” students to tease out the best students or to extend content beyond what is covered in a course. In this case study, we explored if exam items, which are in the scope of the course but are “a stretch,” affected engineering students’ ability to self-monitor and reflect on performance. We compared and contrasted two examination experiences from the same engineering statics course. In scenario one, students recently learned a concept, and their practice exam reflected that content. In scenario two, students had yet to learn the concepts contained in the practice exams, but the concepts were related to the course. We explored this from a pre- and post-dicted expected performance, actual performance, and physiological response (electrodermal activity and heart rate) perspective for 26 engineering students.

This research examines the relationship between expected performance, actual performance, time per question or exam, and arousal response. Findings suggest the pre- and post-dicted expected performances may influence physiological responses (e.g., electrodermal activity and heart rate), which may not necessarily support students' actual performances on the exam.