Item selection in computerized adaptive testing: Should more discriminating be used first?

Kit Tai Hau, Hua Hua Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During computerized adaptive testing (CAT), items are selected continuously according to the test-taker's estimated ability. The traditional method of attaining the highest efficiency in ability estimation is to select items of maximum Fisher information at the currently estimated ability. Test security has become a problem because high-discrimination items are more likely to be selected and become overexposed. So, there seems to be a tradeoff between high efficiency in ability estimations and balanced usage of items. This series of four studies with simulated data addressed the dilemma by focusing on the notion of whether more or less discriminating items should be used first in CAT. The first study demonstrated that the common maximum information method with Sympson and Hetter (1985) control resulted in the use of more discriminating items first. The remaining studies showed that using items in the reverse order (i.e., less discriminating items first), as described in Chang and Ying's (1999) stratified method had potential advantages: (a) a more balanced item usage and (b) a relatively stable resultant item pool structure with easy and inexpensive management: This stratified method may have ability-estimation efficiency better than or close to that of other methods, particularly for operational item pools when retired items cannot be totally replenished with similar highly discriminating items. It is argued that the judicious selection of items, as in the stratified method, is a more active control of item exposure, which can successfully even out the usage of all items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-266
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Educational Measurement
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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