Alternative Item Type (AIT) FAQ
Is it possible that I will get a “more difficult” FE Exam with the new AIT problems?
Yes, it’s definitely a possibility that you will get a “more difficult” FE Exam with the new Alternative Item Type (AIT) problems, but honestly…
It doesn’t matter.
Let’s dive in to why.
Using Item Response Theory, a statistical process for high stakes exams, the NCESS develops each exam administered using the linear-on-the-fly testing approach, or LOFT algorithm.
This algorithm allows for the development of an infinite number of individualized exams that are all uniform to the specifications, but none of which are exactly the same.
Or in more simple terms, every single person who takes the FE Exam will be presented a test that is unique to them.
The LOFT method of exam delivery is popular in the world of professional exams and takes a stance between two other common testing methods, those being the traditional linear fixed-form delivery (what we remember from college, test banks anyone?) and computerized adaptive testing.
LOFT adopts components from each of these methods in an effort to maintain the equivalence of the set of items that each examinee sees (found in fixed-form delivery and is important for the overall uniformity of licensing standards), while attempting to reduce item exposure and enhance test security (a strength of computerized adaptive testing).
As it goes for the FE Exam, the algorithm will assemble your unique exam in line with the same specification framework (i.e., the same number of questions per topic area defined by your particular discipline specification), taking problems from a pool of content that has been reviewed and vetted ahead of time.
Each of these problems will have a defined level of difficulty attached to them to aid the algorithm in producing exams with an overall relative level of difficulty that is uniform across the board.
So is it possible that through this process, the algorithm pulls “more difficult” problems out of the AIT pool?
But the important thing to note is that the “overall level of difficulty” of the exam will be relatively the same as any of the other exams you would have gotten…and for that reason…
It doesn’t matter.
At the end of the day, your score is still going to be converted in to a “scaled score” and compared against the “pass line” for your unique exam…otherwise known as the “minimum level of knowledge” determined acceptable to give you that four letter word…
I know that dropping the whole “scaled score”, “pass line” and “minimum level of knowledge” verbiage may be causing some confusion, so let’s do you a quick recap of the scoring process of the FE Exam as outlined by the NCEES on their website to see how this all comes full circle.
When you go and take the FE Exam, you will complete 110 questions regardless of what exam discipline you take.
As we have established, this 110 question exam will be unique to you, developed by the NCEES using the LOFT method.
Of those 110 questions, you are going to get a certain number correct and that number is going to be taken and converted in to a “scaled score”.
This “scaled score” is used to adjust your raw score for any minor differences in difficulty across the different exam forms.
So what do I mean by “differences in difficulty”?
Each FE Exam problem, before it is released in to active rotation through the LOFT algorithm, is ran through a control group of subject matter experts who work it in it’s entirety.
Fun…not so fun.
The results that stem from this effort, along with the unique FE Exam developed for your taking, are ran through a series of psychometric statistical methods that analyze the data and defines some “minimum ability level” for that particular exam.
This “minimum ability level” is your “pass line”.
It’s this “scaled score” and the NCEES accounting for the “differences in difficulty” through their algorithm that has us telling you that whether you get a “more difficult” or “less difficult” exam is irrelevant.
The difficulty of your exam becomes a moot point and really all that you should be worried about is performing your best to ensure that you are exceeding that “minimum ability level”…or rather, the “pass line”.
This pass line is compared to your “scaled score” and if you are above it, you pass, if not, you fail.
Whether you get a “more difficult” FE Exam will have no bearing.
And that’s a wrap, as always, with love, Prepineer.
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