Formal Relations and an Empirical Comparison among the Bi-Factor, the Testlet, and a Second-Order Multidimensional IRT Model

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Abstract

Testlet effects can be taken into account by incorporating specific dimensions in addition to the general dimension into the item response theory model. Three such multidimensional models are described: the bi-factor model, the testlet model, and a second-order model. It is shown how the second-order model is formally equivalent to the testlet model. In turn, both models are constrained bi-factor models. Therefore, the efficient full maximum likelihood estimation method that has been established for the bi-factor model can be modified to estimate the parameters of the two other models. An application on a testlet-based international English assessment indicated that the bi-factor model was the preferred model for this particular data set.

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