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J Appl Meas. 2008;9(1):81-104.

Binary items and beyond: a simulation of computer adaptive testing using the Rasch partial credit model.

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  • 1Illinois State Board of Education, USA.


Past research on Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) has focused almost exclusively on the use of binary items and minimizing the number of items to be administrated. To address this situation, extensive computer simulations were performed using partial credit items with two, three, four, and five response categories. Other variables manipulated include the number of available items, the number of respondents used to calibrate the items, and various manipulations of respondents' true locations. Three item selection strategies were used, and the theoretically optimal Maximum Information method was compared to random item selection and Bayesian Maximum Falsification approaches. The Rasch partial credit model proved to be quite robust to various imperfections, and systematic distortions did occur mainly in the absence of sufficient numbers of items located near the trait or performance levels of interest. The findings further indicate that having small numbers of items is more problematic in practice than having small numbers of respondents to calibrate these items. Most importantly, increasing the number of response categories consistently improved CAT's efficiency as well as the general quality of the results. In fact, increasing the number of response categories proved to have a greater positive impact than did the choice of item selection method, as the Maximum Information approach performed only slightly better than the Maximum Falsification approach. Accordingly, issues related to the efficiency of item selection methods are far less important than is commonly suggested in the literature. However, being based on computer simulations only, the preceding presumes that actual respondents behave according to the Rasch model. CAT research could thus benefit from empirical studies aimed at determining whether, and if so, how, selection strategies impact performance.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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