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Bayesian Inference and the Classical Test Theory Model I. Reliability and True Scores NICHD

Novick, Melvin R.; Jackson, Paul H.; Thayer, Dorothy T.
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Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
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Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), Models, Psychometrics, Statistical Analysis, Test Reliability, Test Theory, True Scores


A general one-way analysis of variance components with unequal replication numbers is used to provide unbiased estimates of the true and error score variance of classical test theory. The inadequacy of the ANOVA theory is noted and the foundations for a Bayesian approach are detailed. The choice of prior distribution is discussed and a justification for the Tiao-Tan prior is found in the particular context of the "n-split" technique. The posterior distributions of reliability, error score variance, observed score variance and true score variance are presented with some extensions of the original work of Tiao and Tan. Special attention is given to simple approximations that are available in important cases and also to the problems that arise when the ANOVA estimate of true score variance is negative. Bayesian methods derived by Box and Tiao and by Lindley are studied numerically in relation to the problem of estimating true score. Each is found to be useful and the advantages and disadvantages of each are discussed and related to the classical test-theoretic methods. Finally, some general relationships between Bayesian inference and classical test theory are discussed.

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