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Application of Item Response Theory to the Study of Differential Item Characteristics: A Review of the Literature IRT

Bleistein, Carole A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Item Analysis, Item Response Theory (IRT), Literature Reviews, Test Bias, Test Validity


Test performance may be influenced by variables other than ability in the trait measured. Researchers and test developers concerned with culture-fair testing have addressed this through many different models. Some are designed to study the fairness of the whole test; others, the fairness of individual test items. Research devoted to models of the fairness of individual test items are the concern here. "Differential item characteristics" is used for performance differences that may be attributable to subgroup membership. An item is free of differential characteristics if the probability of responding correctly, given total score, is the same for all populations studied. Applications of the item response theory (IRT) approach to the evaluation of differential performance characteristics is described. Most of the literature reviewed are studies which have applied the three-parameter logistic model to the assessment of differential item characteristics. Much of the early work makes use of the Rasch one-parameter model. One of these reports is given.

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