Tracking and Targeting: Investigating Item Performance on the English Section of a University Entrance Examination over a 4-Year Period

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Christopher Weaver and Yoko Sato



This empirical study introduces population targeting and cut-off point targeting as a systematic approach to evaluating the performance of items in the English section of university entrance examinations. Using Rasch measurement theory, we found that the item difficulty and the types of items in a series of national university entrance examinations varied considerably over a 4-year period. However, there was progress towards improved test performance in terms of an increased number of items assessing different language skills and content areas as well as an increased number targeting test takers’ knowledge of English. This study also found that productive items rather than receptive items better targeted test takers’ overall knowledge of English. Moreover, productive items were more consistently located around the probable cut point for university admissions. The paper concludes with a detailed account of a number of probable factors that could influence item performance, such as the use of rating scales.