What to Do If You Fail the FACS Final Test
Overview of the FFT
Many students of FACS are unsuccessful the first time they take the Final Test.
Everyone who persists in studying FACS and re-taking the test, however, eventually passes.
A few people seem to have a natural ability to see facial actions,
and they readily master FACS and do well on the test their first time.
Most of us, however, require comprehensive lessons that lead to a better understanding
of facial behaviors and make our analysis of the face more accurate.
FACS provides these lessons, and some people learn them sufficiently before taking the test
the first time, and others, after.
This page provides some guidance for those in the latter group.
The most likely causes of failure on this test are insufficient training and lack of scoring practice.
Insufficient training ignores the advice in the FACS Investigator's Guide
about constituting a training group, how to progress through the chapters,
studing the reference examples, completing and checking the practice items,
observing each others' faces, etc.
Lack of practice begins with failing to take advantage of the opportunities
within the FACS Manual for practice scoring of stills and video,
and careful review of the experts' scoring for the reference examples.
Additional practice with other facial behaviors recorded in a reseach setting
or from television will also improve chances of success on the test,
and is recommended before taking the test.
The test materials are unlike the reference and practice materials in FACS
as they are from an actual research setting.
They are also more difficult to score.
The FFT is an opportunity for additional learning about how FACS is applied in realistic situations.
The criterion for passing the FFT is an average coefficient of .70 or above across the 35 items.
If your score is less, revise your scoring and re-submit your answers.
To help your revision, examine the file returned during test processing that contains your Hits,
Misses, and Adds (HMAs).
This file shows your agreement with the criterion scoring for each AU
and is similar to agreement tables provided by the Checker program.
It does not show how each test item is scored, but reveals your strengths and weaknesses
in scoring particular Action Units.
A Hit is an instance where your scoring of an AU agrees with the criterion scoring.
A Miss is an instance where you failed to score an AU in the criterion score.
Thus, the total of Hits and Misses is the number of items in which the experts scored the AU.
Frequently missing the occurances of an AU is sometimes called "underscoring" the AU.
An Add is where you scored an AU that is not in the criterion score.
Consistently adding an AU to scores where it is not present is sometimes called "overscoring" an AU.
Look at each table in the HMAs file for how many times you hit, missed, or added that particular AU.
If you hit all the instances of an AU that were scored by the experts (missed none),
and did not score it in any other items, then you probably are well trained in scoring that AU.
If you missed scoring an AU in too many of the items where it was present,
then you should probably work on detecting this AU better.
Go back to the FACS Manual and re-read the section on this AU and any other
sections describing combinations involving this AU.
Study the reference examples and the practice items that show this AU
and how this AU looks on your own face and your colleagues' faces.
Realize that you may have to look especially hard for the presence of this AU
in the test items, but yet avoid scoring it when it is not present.
Make sure this AU is in your final check list for AUs that are not
inadvertently omitted, i.e., be sure it is not present but overlooked.
If you frequently scored more of a particular AU in items where the experts did not score that AU,
then you are probably overscoring that AU because you are confusing it with another AU.
You are trying to explain something that you observe in the face with the wrong AU.
Go back to the FACS manual and look at the descriptions of the AUs you are overscoring
and the AUs that are commonly confused with it.
These AUs are the ones you need to consider as alternatives when you score the overscored AU.
(There is a statistic that shows what AUs are confused, but to provide it would be too much of a give away to the correct answers to items.) It is also possible that you are overscoring an AU because of the psychological
phenomenon known as over-generalization.
You may be seeing the overscored AU in too many different behaviors for one or more of many
different reasons, or you may be seeing that AU when no score at all is required.
Part of the corrective action is the same as described previously, i.e., be sure to
consider alternative explanations.
Another question you should ask when scoring the problematic AU is whether there is really something present that
requires the overscored AU as an explanation.
When you have finished studying the information in the Hits, Misses, and Adds file,
and have completed the review of the FACS Manual,
review the video for each item on the test.
It is possible that items that seemed easy to score are the ones where mistakes were made, but it is likely that you know what the difficult items were for you.
Use the insights gained from studying the tables to re-evaluate your scoring for each item.
If needed, revise your scoring, then re-submit your test.
If you pass the FFT, but obtain a coefficient less than .85, then there is plenty of opportunity for you
to learn more from the test.
You should carefully review your
Hits, Misses, and Adds and the criterion scoring for each item.
Try to understand why the experts coded the item as they did, and
in items where your scores do not match, why your scores are less satisfactory.
You should be concerned that if your scoring does not improve,
it will be marginal in situations where it really counts.
You may spend much time in your research work improving your reliability
with other coders.
Passing the FFT is evidence of a minimal proficiency in using FACS,
not a mastery of facial behaviors and expression.
The authors of FACS expect continued improvement with practice in the ability to detect accurately
what action units produce observed facial behaviors and the ability to agree with others
about the appropriate FACS scoring.
This progress should be cultivated by the principal investigator who can supply the
opportunities for additional inter-coder reliability on the actual research materials
and for arbitration and discussion among the working coders that improves agreement.
From personal experience and observation, after you have spent about a thousand hours scoring real-time facial behaviors, with the appropriate feedback and checks, you will be in the midst of mastering FACS scoring. Thus, six months to a year of full-time employment in scoring will move you to the next level.
note that the current version of the FACS FFT was produced and scored
by a team of very skilled coders at the University of Innsbruck
under the direction of Eva Baenninger-Huber. Joseph C. Hager
administers the processing of test scores by following the directions
as set forth by the authors of the test's instructions, including
Paul Ekman and Wallace V. Friesen.