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Optional Use of Calculators on a Mathematical Test: Effect on Item Difficulty and Score Equating

Dorans, Neil J.; Lawrence, Ida M.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Anchor Tests, Calculators, Difficulty Level, Equated Scores, Mathematics Tests, Scholastic Assessment Test


This paper describes findings from two studies involving optional use of calculators on SAT mathematical items. The first study looked at the effects of calculator use on estimates of item difficulty. The second study looked at the effect of calculator use on equating results from an anchor test design. Study 1 looked at data on specific items that become inappropriate for a test that permits calculators because the skills measured by the item administered with a calculator are quite different when the item is administered without a calculator. Study 2 showed that, because the use of a calculator sometimes makes items easier, any equating design that utilizes an anchor test design needs to ensure that the anchor test is administered under the same condition, i.e., with a calculator or without a calculator. A solution for making this adjustment with a special equating study is described. (20pp.)

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