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An Investigation of the Role of Educational Background on Performance on the GRE Analytical Measure GREB GRE

Enright, Mary K.; Bejar, Isaac I.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Graduate Record Examinations Board, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), GRE Analytical Ability Measure, Differential Item Difficulty, Educational Background


There have been a number of reports that educational background is related to performance on reasoning problems similar to those used on the GRE analytical measure. The purpose of this research was to evaluate whether educational background as defined by broad undergraduate major fields was related to differential difficulty for specific items on the GRE analytical measure. An index of differential difficulty, MH-DDIF, was calculated for the reasoning items from 13 GRE forms. We found only low to moderate levels of MH-DDIF for the two item types on the analytical measure. A higher proportion of logical reasoning items than analytical reasoning items had moderate MH-DDIF. The relationship of item classification attributes to MH-DDIF was evaluated. In addition, other attributes potentially related to MH-DDIF for logical reasoning items were identified and their ability to predict MH-DDIF was evaluated with a cross-validation design. The attributes identified as potentially related to MH-DDIF for items from one subset of GRE forms did not predict MH-DDIF for items in a second subset. Thus, a strong link between item performance and educational background was not observed within item types. Because of the failure to cross-validate the potential predictors of DIF, other factors that contribute to MH-DDIF are briefly considered. The relationship of these results to other research on the effect of educational background is discussed. We also discuss implications for test design and how test development practices are effective in minimizing the impact of educational background within item types.

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