Gender Gap and Multiple Choice Exams in Public Selection Processes

Authors: J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz, Juan-José Ganuza and Manu García

Hacienda Publica Espanola, Vol. 235, No 4, 11-28, December, 2020

Multiple choice tests are commonly used by the public sector in their recruitment and selection procedures as well as in the regulation of entry for some professions (lawyers, physicians, etc.). Empirical and experimental literature has found evidence that females skip more questions on these tests undermining their performance. This bias could increase the gender gap in the public sector, and it can be an important caveat of the public recruitment policies for attracting talent. Using data of the Spanish “MIR (Médico Interno Residente)” national exam of 2019, we analyze if gender differences in behavior arise in high-stakes tests, in which the outcome of the test has long term impact on the test takers careers. We find that when a female prepares intensively and trains for the test, although she skips more questions than men, the effect is significantly smaller than in the previous literature. However, we still find small differences in the exam performance between men and female, and this gender gap in performance is greater for the best candidates.