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Differential Item Functioning for Males and Females on SAT-Verbal Reading Subscore Items DIF SAT

Lawrence, Ida M.; Curley, W. Edward; McHale, Frederick J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Board, College Entrance Examinations, Differential Item Functioning (DIF), Item Analysis, Reading Tests, Response Style (Tests), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Sex Differences, Verbal Tests


The Reading Comprehension and Sentence Completion items from four forms of the SAT-verbal sections were examined for differential item functioning (DIF) between male and female test takers. In general, minimal DIF was observed for the items analyzed in this investigation. However, among the relatively few items exhibiting substantial DIF, two trends related to science content were noted. An important factor that appears to be connected to DIF on Reading Comprehension items is the distinction between technical and nontechnical reading passage material. Items associated with passages containing technical (as opposed to historical or philosophical) science material are generally more difficult for female examinees. This trend emerged for three of the four forms studied. Data from the fourth form suggested that there may be an interaction between the technical science factor and the passage location. Confirmation of this finding will require a follow-up study. The main factor that appears to be related to DIF on Sentence Completion items is the distinction between nonscience or surface science references and true science references. Items containing true science references tend to be more difficult for females. (60pp.)

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