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COMPUTER-BASED TESTING AND THE INTERNET
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generation of unique item templates While the work that Bennett (1999) and others have done to create operationally useful item generation machines is remarkable, our experience indicates that the work is far from complete
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Ef cient Estimation of Statistical Properties Statistical estimates of item properties are used as part of the speci cations to create our testlets and panels, and are required for IRT scoring Estimation of these statistics is traditionally based on reasonably large samples This means a pre-tested item would normally need to be tested with 300 500 candidates before stable estimation of statistical properties is useful for building test forms or for scoring operational items One strategy we are pursuing is to capitalize on the adaptive nature of the MST in calibration of multiple-choice items (van der Linden & Mead, 2004) A judgment of item dif culty will allow the pre-test item to be placed in a testlet that will be presented to candidates with ability in the appropriate range In an effort to cut the time required from development to operational scoring of simulations, we plan to make use of the fact that principled development has been used for the performance tasks To the extent that the exercises (tasks or items) are similar, it is likely possible to generalize item statistics across questions that have the same development and scoring templates A possible future extension of this is to retain scoring decisions made from responses to another example of the same template for new performance tasks If successful, this will reduce the time and expense associated with pretesting, and will allow scoring to occur without the need for a large sample post-administration analysis Our experiences with the rst year of computerized testing raised some concern that even seemingly subtle variations to tasks and items will have unexpected impact on statistical properties Although collateral information related to the item might be used to reduce the required sample size for estimation, and generalizations may be acceptable for assembly purposes, it is premature to use estimates of this kind for scoring Until we understand more thoroughly the consequences of task variations, and constrain the range of correct responses that result from our templates, a post-administration analysis is still warranted for any new content in the examination In the early phase of development, there is too much variation in test taker responses for this innovation to be implemented
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Test Design and Administration
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Interpretation-Based Design Focusing on interpretation reduces test development constraints This is an important advance over tests that might have been constructed along a single dimension (eg content ranges from a blueprint) One of the most important
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FACING THE FUTURE
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reasons for the AICPA to move to computerized administration was the requirement to test new skills in addition to understanding, judgment, and evaluation, which were the skills assessed in the paper-based examination Speci cally, the test is balanced to meet content speci cations in addition to skill speci cations (now including written communication, and research skills) A focus on interpretation allows us to develop test forms to satisfy the margins of these two levels of speci cation (content and skills) for the computerized examination For the paper-based examination, due to the small number of forms to be administered each year, tests were assembled one item at a time to meet content speci cations, only Under CBT, which required the assembly of many test forms to meet the two-dimensional speci cation for computer administration, we sought out experiences from other testing programs The National Board of Medical Examiners and the Nursing Boards are examples of programs where the complexity of constraints has had signi cant consequences for automated assembly and administration of computerized tests In the present computerized CPA examination, the content and skill requirements (along with statistical and other design properties) are expressed as mutual requirements in the assembly process The resulting testlets and panels match all dimensions of our test speci cations (Breithaupt, Ariel, & Veldkamp, 2004) Due to the accelerated pace at which professions are changing to meet real world challenges, traditional practice analysis and job analysis methods that determine the content required for high stake testing programs are becoming less appropriate Despite our success in making the content speci cations more general, our program must become more responsive to rapid changes in the accounting profession The interpretation-based design offers some generality However, the time needed for formalizing policy, delivering timely communications to stakeholders, and developing new test content introduces unacceptable delays when test content must change There is some ef ciency to be gained by focusing expert reviews on the broad features needed for validity in the domain of test speci cations, with less emphasis on the subtopics that may lie within these domains At the same time, we need a faster or different process to respond to changes in the profession that have a substantive impact on the content of the examination Performing focused practice analyses and using the Internet to collect practice analysis information are two possible areas of improvement
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Internet Testing Internet delivery of tests is convenient and exible, and sometimes no special software or hardware is required Through a version of secure Internet testing, we were able to implement a relatively low cost university-based eld test program for the computerized examination This afforded us a mechanism for obtaining pretest data in a non-operational setting and created an invaluable
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