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resting on the total examination score and our inability to be con dent that we have pre-identi ed all possible correct answers, all responses and scores are currently veri ed to ensure that all candidates who should receive credit for their responses are treated fairly
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Combining Scores from Different Item Types The simulation component is just one of three types of performance that are required from candidates for the CPA examination In three of the four separate sections of our examination, there are constructed responses measuring written communication, simulations, and multiple-choice items Sections of the CPA examination are Audit and Attestation, Regulation, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Business Environment and Context (which contains only multiple-choice questions at the time of this writing) Each section has an aggregate score, and an associated passing score based on performances on all the included item types Two particular challenges existed in determining how to arrive at a single score scale when different item types were combined These were the need to report scores on a scale that could be understood by our stakeholders (accustomed to a 0 99 scale, with a passing score of 75), and the need to establish a reasonable metric for IRT calibrations across item types Our stakeholders settled on a policy of transforming the IRT-based ability estimation to an expected number correct scale for objective portions of the exam (multiple-choice items and simulations) The weighted sum of the holistic written communication score and the estimated number correct scores was then transformed to the reported score scale of 0 99 The selection of an initial IRT calibration design was made with consideration of the new content and scoring methods used for the computer-administered examination The portions of the examination sections with the highest weight in the total score are the multiple-choice testlets A decision was made to scale the objective simulation scores to the multiple-choice bank as a result of research on the t of the paper-based multiple-choice response data to the IRT model, and caution in interpreting the new simulation components (Luecht, 2003) As we gain experience with the new test and item formats and as examinees become familiar with the novel item formats, we will need to research alternative designs for scaling (including multidimensional IRT models, partial credit scoring, and separate calibration for simulations)
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Setting Passing Scores on Complex Performances One of the challenges faced by the AICPA was the establishment of new passing scores for the computer-based test Not only had the test changed substantially through the incorporation of complex performance tasks or simulations, but also many of the administrative constraints on the licensure process were changed Prior to the implementation of the new examination,
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most candidates had to take all sections of the examination in a single two-day period and receiving credit for an examination section was conditioned not only on performance on that section, but also performance on other sections Under CBT, candidates are allowed to take as many or few sections as they desire and performance on other sections has no bearing on the granting of credit for a given section These factors created two issues that had to be resolved First, how could a standard setting study be conducted that would provide appropriate information on the new item formats Second, how should the policy-makers (the Board of Examiners) consider the standard setting data along with other relevant information to establish the passing standards One study was conducted (Hambleton & Pitoniak, 2002) to identify and select standard setting methods The results of the studies supported the use of standard setting techniques that required expert panelists to evaluate both the content of the test and representative performance of examinees Thus, the operational standard setting studies were based on methods that provided panelists with examples of actual examinee performance on speci c assessment tasks However, the data provided to panelists was either (1) collected in the paper-based program under the prior administrative regulations or (2) based on low stakes, pretest administrations of the new item formats As a result, even though the design and conduct of the studies was appropriate (ie there was a satisfactory answer to the rst issue), the extent to which the results could be expected to represent performance of minimally competent candidates in the new administrative environment was unclear Therefore, there was no clear direction for the policy makers deliberations on how to incorporate the standard setting results with other relevant information This dilemma is not new in high stake testing, as evidenced by the special issue of Educational Measurement: Issues and Practices in 1991 and the work of Glass (1978) Ultimately, the policy body charged with setting the nal passing scores, the Board of Examiners, used the standard setting study results as the basis of its decision However, it adjusted the study-based standard substantially based on other information including, but not limited to, the expected stakeholder perceptions of the validity of the examination if passing rates varied dramatically from prior experience This is a dilemma that will undoubtedly be faced by more and more test sponsors as consumer demands result in signi cant changes to tests and testing conditions Further research is essential to provide policy groups with guidance concerning how to responsibly set passing standards that incorporate multiple information sources in a manner that, while arbitrary, is not capricious
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