A Stepwise Test Characteristic Curve Method to Detect Item Parameter Drift

Rui Guo, Yi Zheng, Hua Hua Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An important assumption of item response theory is item parameter invariance. Sometimes, however, item parameters are not invariant across different test administrations due to factors other than sampling error; this phenomenon is termed item parameter drift. Several methods have been developed to detect drifted items. However, most of the existing methods were designed to detect drifts in individual items, which may not be adequate for test characteristic curve-based linking or equating. One example is the item response theory-based true score equating, whose goal is to generate a conversion table to relate number-correct scores on two forms based on their test characteristic curves. This article introduces a stepwise test characteristic curve method to detect item parameter drift iteratively based on test characteristic curves without needing to set any predetermined critical values. Comparisons are made between the proposed method and two existing methods under the three-parameter logistic item response model through simulation and real data analysis. Results show that the proposed method produces a small difference in test characteristic curves between administrations, an accurate conversion table, and a good classification of drifted and nondrifted items and at the same time keeps a large amount of linking items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-300
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Educational Measurement
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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