International Education Journal


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Differential item functioning: A case study from first year economics

Steven Barrett
University of South Australia


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The Division of Business and Enterprise at the University of South Australia is attempting to reduce teaching costs. Consequently, multiple-choice tests are set to play a more important role in assessment processes. However, many subject coordinators do not have the information required to ensure that this form of assessment is both effective and efficient.

The study aims to determine whether a recent multiple-choice examination effectively discriminated between students on the basis of ability or were gender biased. The extent of guessing was also investigated. The study is an application of Item Response Theory using the Rasch Model. The study found little evidence of gender bias or systematic guessing, but did determine that many questions did not adequately discriminate between students of different ability.

Item Response Theory, Rasch model


Barrett, S. (2001) Differential item functioning: A case study from first year economics. International Education Journal, 2 (3), 123-132.

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