Ensuring the Fairness of GRE Writing Prompts: Assessing Differential Difficulty

Author(s):
Broer, Markus; Lee, Yong-Won; Rizavi, Saba; Powers, Don
Publication Year:
2005
Report Number:
RR-05-11
GREB-02-07R
Source:
Document Type:
Subject/Key Words:
ESL ethnic minorities gender GRE item characteristics polytomous DIF prompts writing assessment

Abstract

Three polytomous DIF detection techniques—the Mantel test, logistic regression, and polySTAND—were used to identify GRE® Analytical Writing prompts (Issue and Argument) that are differentially difficult for (a) female test takers; (b) African American, Asian, and Hispanic test takers; and (c) test takers whose strongest language skills are in a language other than English. Prompts in the gender comparison showed low differential item functioning (DIF) values. Higher DIF values were found in the White versus African American comparison (for Argument prompts), while a smaller number of prompts showed moderate DIF to the disadvantage of the Hispanic (for Argument prompts), Asian American (for Issue prompts), and English as a second language groups (for Issue prompts). No DIF values were found that were large enough to warrant the removal of prompts from the item pool. Several potential causes of high DIF values for some prompts are discussed with respect to the content characteristics of these prompts.

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