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Aptitude testing for programming

This page is about the possibility of aptitude testing to be used eventually for selection for admission to level 1 DCS courses.

The general issue is why is introductory computing, particularly introductory programming, so hard. One paper, which dismisses the relevance of aptitude testing, is Tony Jenkins' recent paper "On the difficulty of learning to program" given to the ICS LTSN 2002 conference, and published here, and locally, and more printably, here with my comments.

Some pointers to aptitude tests and providers

Here are some web pointers, collected by Gregor Kennedy, to aptitude tests.

From: Walden Personnel Testing and Consulting.
Includes: Wolfe-Spence Programming Aptitude Test http://www.waldentesting.com/wolfe/wspat.htm

From: Psychometrics Inc.
Includes: Berger Aptitude for Programming Test (B-APT Form D) http://www.psy-test.com/Baptd.html

From: Sherwood Assessment
Includes: The Sherwood Technology Aptitide Test
http://www.sherwood-assessment.co.uk/stat/sample_questions.htm

From: Bruce Winrow and Associates Consultants Inc.
Includes: International Programming Aptitide Test
http://www.winrowtesting.com/sample.htm

From: APR (Applied Personnel Research) Testing Services
Includes: The Language-Free Programmer/Analyst Aptitude Test (LPAT)
http://www.personnelselection.com/programmer.htm

From: Assessment Systems Corporation
Just a list of skills and aptitude tests on offer.


Thought this might be of interest too...
ACHIEVEMENT VERSUS APTITUDE TESTS IN COLLEGE ADMISSIONS
Richard C. Atkinson
http://www.ucop.edu/pres/speeches/achieve.htm

For example ....
"Fortunately, today we do have such an analysis of the SAT's value in admissions decisions. Because our students have been taking the SAT I and the SAT II for more than three decades, UC is perhaps the only university in the country that has a database large enough to compare the predictive power of the SAT I with that of the achievement-based SAT II tests. UC researchers Saul Geiser and Roger Studley have analyzed the records of almost 78,000 freshmen who entered UC over the past four years. They concluded that the SAT II is, in fact, a better predictor of college grades than the SAT I. The UC data show that high school grades plus the SAT II account for about 21 percent of the explained variance in first-year college grades. When the SAT I is added to high school grades and the SAT II, the explained variance increases from 21 percent to 21.1 percent, a trivial increment. "


Note however that there is considerable evidence that deep as opposed to surface approaches to learning are predictive of success in introductory programming courses. If meaningful tests of that could be done n advance, then it could be used as an aptitude test.

Fincher, S., Baker, B., Box, I., Cutts, Q., de Raadt, M., Haden, P., Hamer, J., Hamilton, M., Lister, R., Petre, M., Robins, A., Simon, Sutton, K., Tolhurst, D., Tutty, J. (2005) Programmed to succeed?: a multi-national, multiinstitutional study of introductory programming courses (Computing Laboratory Technical Report 1-05, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)

Simon et al. (2006) "Predictors of success in a first programming course" Proceedings of the Eighth Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE 2006) pp.189-196 (Hobart, Australia)

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