The Berlin Numeracy Test is a powerful psychometric tool designed to assess an individual’s level of risk literacy and statistical numeracy. Risk literacy refers to an individual’s ability to interpret risks and rewards and act on the information gained. Statistical numeracy, on the other hand, refers to any operations of statistical and probabilistic computations.
Note that risk literacy and assessment are essential in everyday life; specifically, in the fields of engineering, business, and health. An individual who is risk literate will effectively evaluate and understand risks and rewards to make an informed and skilled decision, based on both analytical thinking and meaningful intuition. Thus, the Berlin Numeracy Test is a valuable tool which assesses an individual’s understanding of mathematics, statistical numeracy, and risk literacy.
The Berlin Numeracy Test (Cokely et al., 2012) is built on profound research regarding numeracy (Lipkus et al., 2001; Schwartz et al., 1997). The Berlin Numeracy Test is a psychometrically sound, refined, easy-to-use, and brief version of previous numeracy and cognitive tests. The task has several formats to offer flexibility across various platforms and settings. In fact, the Berlin Numeracy Test has an adaptive computer format, a traditional paper-and-pencil format, and a single-item (median) format.
The Berlin Numeracy Test is a computer-based instrument, implemented in the PEBL (Psychology Experiment Building Language) system. The Berlin Numeracy Test consists of four questions that are based on statistics and probability.
When the test starts, participants are presented with the first question, and upon answering it, they are led to the next one. Here is one example of the Berlin Numeracy Test: “Imagine we are throwing a five-sided die 50 times. On average, out of these 50 throws how many times would this five-sided die show an odd number (1, 3 or 5)?” Once the Berlin Numeracy Test is completed, the participants are presented with their results and performance.
Use of the Berlin Numeracy Test to Measure Risk Literacy in German Medical Students
Friederich et al. (2014) measured risk literacy in German medical students by using the traditional paper-and-pencil format of the Berlin Numeracy Test. The sample consisted of 600 German medical students from the University of Muenster. Participants had to solve four short case-studies in less than 10 minutes. No calculators were allowed; however, participants could make notes. Results indicated that the German medical students obtained high average scores. The research team found that participants who made notes scored significantly higher than those who only performed mental calculations. Moreover, male participants had significantly higher scores than female participants. Thus, the test is a valuable tool as numeracy plays a crucial role in medical decisions and scientific research.
The Berlin Numeracy Test has been validated in Swedish (Lindskog et al. 2015) among two groups: students from a Swedish university and a sample representative of the Swedish population. Results showed that the test was a valid measure of numeracy in both samples.
Note that the test achieves good discriminability across countries and populations.
The test is a valuable tool in the assessment of risk literacy and statistical numeracy.
Interestingly, participants who made notes scored higher than those who performed only mental arithmetic (2.45 and 1.77 points, respectively, P<.001). Gender differences also affected performance (with 2.36 points and 1.72 points for males and females, respectively, P<.001). No statistically significant differences were found regarding experience (the academic year) and performance (P=.37) (Friederich et al., 2014).
The Berlin Numeracy Test is a powerful tool with strong psychometric discriminability across more than 15 countries and diverse populations.
Predictive validity: While the Berlin Numeracy Test raises a few concerns regarding its predictive validity, the authors of the tool claim the test is a strong predictor of comprehension and evaluation of risks. The test can increase the predictive power of other tools which measure intelligence and decision-making.
Convergent and discriminative validity: The Berlin Numeracy Test also reveals good convergent and discriminative validity. The tool shows high correlations with other measures of cognitive ability and low correlations with unrelated constructs, such as motivation and beliefs.
Reliability: The test shows good levels of internal consistency. Interestingly, data showed that Cronbach’s Alpha was 0.79 in the US and 0.74 in Germany.
The Berlin Numeracy Test is a valuable tool based on profound research and various numeracy tests. The instrument is short, flexible, and applicable to diverse samples. Moreover, it is easily translatable into various languages; with high construct validity (Lindskog et al. 2015). The Berlin Numeracy Test has three different versions (computerized, paper-and-pencil, and single-item), which makes it readily available to researchers and the general public.
The Berlin Numeracy Test is a fairly recent instrument to test risk literacy and statistical numeracy, so its properties need to be assessed further. Moreover, the tool has been developed specifically for highly educated samples, which may restrict its applicability and generalizability.
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