Journal article

The impact of test-taking disengagement on item content representation

March 2020

Published in:

Applied Measurement in Education, 33(2), 83-94, DOI: 10.1080/08957347.2020.1732386

By: Steven Wise


In achievement testing there is typically a practical requirement that the set of items administered should be representative of some target content domain. This is accomplished by establishing test blueprints specifying the content constraints to be followed when selecting the items for a test. Sometimes, however, students give disengaged responses to some of their test items, which raises the issue of the degree to which the set of engaged responses maintain the intended content representation. The current investigation reports the results of two studies focused on rapid-guessing behavior. The first study showed evidence that differential rapid guessing often resulted in test events with meaningfully distorted content representation. The second study found that the differences in test taking engagement across content categories were primarily due to differences in the reading load of items. Implications for test-score validity are discussed along with suggestions for addressing the problem.

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