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The Many Definitions of Test Bias

Flaugher, Ronald L.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Achievement Tests, Aptitude Tests, Prediction, Racial Discrimination, Sex Discrimination, Test Bias, Test Interpretation, Validity Studies


Various aspects, interpretations and definitions of test bias are reviewed to set past and future research on the topic in proper perspective. Conclusions reached are the following: 1) There is widespread failure to interpret test scores appropriately, especially in making the distinctions between aptitude and achievement tests; 2) Some research, especially that on differential validity and questions of particular content of the test questions, is yielding disappointing results despite its initial promise; 3) Other research—questions of bias in the selection model and in the criterion measures—is leading us to examine our own value systems. 4) Inappropriateness of the tests to a particular population is a real problem that possibly can be addressed through tailored testing of those populations. The report cites many kinds of interpretations and misinterpretations of test scores: confusion of achievement test and aptitude testing; interpretation of mean differences as test bias; overinterpretation of scores, i.e. the belief that the tests measure more than they actually do; sexism in the language of test questions; and quarrels with test content as bias.

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