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Syntactic Complexity and Psychometric Difficulty: A Preliminary Investigation TSWE

Bejar, Isaac I.; Stabler, Edward P., Jr.; Camp, Roberta
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Chomsky, Noam, Difficulty Level, Problem Solving, Psycholinguistics, Test of Standard Written English (TSWE)


An earlier investigation had argued that experts' judgment of item difficulty could perhaps be usefully supplemented with linguistic information about the sentence from which the item was derived. To investigate that idea, the authors analyzed items from the earlier study to determine their syntactic structure. Three potential independent variables were studied by themselves and in conjunction with subject-matter ratings. The analysis suggested that the combination of experts' judgments and syntactic information about the sentence on which the item was based collectively predicted difficulty better than either judgment or syntactic information alone. Moreover, the proportions of variance in item difficulty accounted for by the judgments and syntactic information was 31%. (31pp.)

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