, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 611–630 | Cite as

Kernel smoothing approaches to nonparametric item characteristic curve estimation

  • J. O. Ramsay


The option characteristic curve, the relation between ability and probability of choosing a particular option for a test item, can be estimated by nonparametric smoothing techniques. What is smoothed is the relation between some function of estimated examinee ability rankings and the binary variable indicating whether or not the option was chosen. This paper explores the use of kernel smoothing, which is particularly well suited to this application. Examples show that, with some help from the fast Fourier transform, estimates can be computed about 500 times as rapidly as when using commonly used parametric approaches such as maximum marginal likelihood estimation using the three-parameter logistic distribution. Simulations suggest that there is no loss of efficiency even when the population curves are three-parameter logistic. The approach lends itself to several interesting extensions.

Key words

fast Fourier transform polytomous response bootstrapping option characteristic curve trace line 


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Copyright information

© The Psychometric Society 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. O. Ramsay
    • 1
  1. 1.McGill UniversityCanada

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