Testing the Test: Item Response Curves and Test Quality

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We present a simple technique for evaluating multiple-choice questions and their answers beyond the usual measures of difficulty and the effectiveness of distractors. The technique involves the construction and qualitative consideration of item response curves and is based on item response theory from the field of education measurement. To demonstrate the technique, we apply item response curve analysis to three questions from the Force Concept Inventory. Item response curve analysis allows us to characterize qualitatively whether these questions are efficient, where efficient is defined in terms of the construction, performance, and discrimination of a question and its answer choices. This technique can be used to develop future multiple-choice examination questions and a better understanding of results from existing diagnostic instruments.