This article examines how the amount of time students spend on a low-stakes test, motivation, and local test administration procedures represent problematic intervening variables in the measurement of student learning. Results from successive administrations of the Collegiate Learning Assessment at a public comprehensive university reveal wide year-to-year variations in student performance that may be related to effort rather than cognitive ability. Findings call into question the efficacy of low-stakes testing to measure educational achievement or institutional effectiveness for accountability purposes.

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