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17/12/2013

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Distractoranalysisisanextensionofitemanalysis,usingtechniquesthataresimilarto
item difficulty and item discrimination. In distractor analysis, however, we are no longer
interestedinhowtesttakersselectthecorrectanswer,buthowthedistracterswereableto

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functioneffectivelybydrawingthetesttakersawayfromthecorrectanswer.Thenumberof

7264/420448760_orig.j

times each distractor is selected is noted in order to determine the effectiveness of the

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distractor.Wewouldexpectthatthedistractorisselectedbyenoughcandidatesforittobe

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aviabledistractor.Whatexactlyisanacceptablevalue?Thisdependstoalargeextenton
the difficulty of the item itself and what we consider to be an acceptable item difficulty
value for test times. If we are to assume that 0.7 is an appropriate item difficulty value,
then we should expect that the remaining 0.3 be about evenly distributed among the
distractors.Letustakethefollowingtestitemasanexample:

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Inthestory,hewasunhappybecause
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A.itrainedallday

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B.hewasscolded
C.hehurthimself
D.theweatherwashot

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Let us assume that 100 students took the test. If we assume that A is the answer and the
item difficulty is 0.7, then 70 students answered correctly. What about the remaining 30
studentsandtheeffectivenessofthethreedistractors?Ifall30selectedD,thedistractorsB
andCareuselessintheirroleasdistractors.Similarly,if15studentsselectedDandanother
15selectedB,thenCisnotaneffectivedistractorandshouldbereplaced.Theideal
situationwouldbeforeachofthethreedistractorstobeselectedby10students.Therefore,
foranitemwhichhasanitemdifficultyof0.7,theidealeffectivenessofeachdistractorcan
be quantified as 10/100 or 0.1. What would be the ideal value for distractors in a four
option multiple choice item when the item difficulty of the item is 0.4? Hint: You need to
identifytheproportionofstudentswhodidnotselectthecorrectoption.

Fromadifferentperspective,theitemdiscriminationformulacanalsobeusedindistractor
analysis. The concept of upper groups and lower groups would still remain, but the
analysisandexpectationwoulddifferslightlyfromtheregularitemdiscriminationthatwe
have looked at earlier. Instead of expecting a positive value, we should logically expect a
negative value as more students from the lower group should select distracters. Each
distractor can have its own item discrimination value in order to analyse how the
distracters work and ultimately refine the effectiveness of the test item itself. If we use the
above item as an example, the item discrimination concept can be used to assess the
effectiveness of each distractor. If a class has 100 students, we can form upper and lower
groupsof30studentseach.Assumethefollowingareobserved:

Thevaluesinthelastcolumnofthetablecanonceagainbeinterpretedaccordingtohow
we examined item discrimination values, but with a twist. Alternative A is the key and a
positive value is the value that we would want. However, the value of 0.33 is rather low
consideringthemaximumvalueis1.ThevaluefordistractorBis0andthistellsusthatthe
distractordidnotdiscriminatebetweentheproficientstudentsintheuppergroupandthe
weaker students in the lower group. Hence, the effectiveness of this distractor is
questionable. Distractor C, on the other hand, seems to have functioned effectively. More
students in the lower group than in the upper group selected this distractor. As our
intention in distractor analysis is to identify distractors that would seem to be the correct
answertoweakerstudents,thendistractorCseemstohavedoneitsjob.Thesamecannot
besaidofthefinaldistractor.Infact,thepositivevalueobtainedhereindicatesthatmore
oftheproficientstudentsselectedthisdistractor.Weshouldunderstandbynowthatthisis
notwhatwewouldhopefor.

Distractoranalysiscanbeausefultoolinevaluatingtheeffectivenessofourdistractors.It
isimportantforustobemindfulofthedistractorsthatweuseinamultiplechoiceformat
test as when distractors are not effective, they are virtually useless. As a result, there is a
greaterpossibilitythatstudentswillbeabletoselectthecorrectanswerbyguessingasthe
optionshavebeenreduced.

Thevaluesinthelastcolumnofthetablecanonceagainbeinterpretedaccordingtohow
weexamineditemdiscriminationvalues,butwithatwist.AlternativeAisthekeyanda
positivevalueisthevaluethatwewouldwant.However,thevalueof0.33isratherlow
consideringthemaximumvalueis1.ThevaluefordistractorBis0andthistellsusthatthe
distractordidnotdiscriminatebetweentheproficientstudentsintheuppergroupandthe
weakerstudentsinthelowergroup.Hence,theeffectivenessofthisdistractoris
questionable.DistractorC,ontheotherhand,seemstohavefunctionedeffectively.More
studentsinthelowergroupthanintheuppergroupselectedthisdistractor.Asour
intentionindistractoranalysisistoidentifydistractorsthatwouldseemtobethecorrect
answertoweakerstudents,thendistractorCseemstohavedoneitsjob.Thesamecannot
besaidofthefinaldistractor.Infact,thepositivevalueobtainedhereindicatesthatmore
oftheproficientstudentsselectedthisdistractor.Weshouldunderstandbynowthatthisis
notwhatwewouldhopefor.

Distractoranalysiscanbeausefultoolinevaluatingtheeffectivenessofourdistractors.It
isimportantforustobemindfulofthedistractorsthatweuseinamultiplechoiceformat
testaswhendistractorsarenoteffective,theyarevirtuallyuseless.Asaresult,thereisa
greaterpossibilitythatstudentswillbeabletoselectthecorrectanswerbyguessingasthe
optionshavebeenreduced.
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