Peter Baldwin


Using Linguistic Features to Predict the Response Process Complexity Associated with Answering Clinical MCQs
Victoria Yaneva | Daniel Jurich | Le An Ha | Peter Baldwin
Proceedings of the 16th Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications

This study examines the relationship between the linguistic characteristics of a test item and the complexity of the response process required to answer it correctly. Using data from a large-scale medical licensing exam, clustering methods identified items that were similar with respect to their relative difficulty and relative response-time intensiveness to create low response process complexity and high response process complexity item classes. Interpretable models were used to investigate the linguistic features that best differentiated between these classes from a descriptive and predictive framework. Results suggest that nuanced features such as the number of ambiguous medical terms help explain response process complexity beyond superficial item characteristics such as word count. Yet, although linguistic features carry signal relevant to response process complexity, the classification of individual items remains challenging.


Predicting the Difficulty and Response Time of Multiple Choice Questions Using Transfer Learning
Kang Xue | Victoria Yaneva | Christopher Runyon | Peter Baldwin
Proceedings of the Fifteenth Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications

This paper investigates whether transfer learning can improve the prediction of the difficulty and response time parameters for 18,000 multiple-choice questions from a high-stakes medical exam. The type the signal that best predicts difficulty and response time is also explored, both in terms of representation abstraction and item component used as input (e.g., whole item, answer options only, etc.). The results indicate that, for our sample, transfer learning can improve the prediction of item difficulty when response time is used as an auxiliary task but not the other way around. In addition, difficulty was best predicted using signal from the item stem (the description of the clinical case), while all parts of the item were important for predicting the response time.

Predicting Item Survival for Multiple Choice Questions in a High-Stakes Medical Exam
Victoria Yaneva | Le An Ha | Peter Baldwin | Janet Mee
Proceedings of the Twelfth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

One of the most resource-intensive problems in the educational testing industry relates to ensuring that newly-developed exam questions can adequately distinguish between students of high and low ability. The current practice for obtaining this information is the costly procedure of pretesting: new items are administered to test-takers and then the items that are too easy or too difficult are discarded. This paper presents the first study towards automatic prediction of an item’s probability to “survive” pretesting (item survival), focusing on human-produced MCQs for a medical exam. Survival is modeled through a number of linguistic features and embedding types, as well as features inspired by information retrieval. The approach shows promising first results for this challenging new application and for modeling the difficulty of expert-knowledge questions.


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Predicting the Difficulty of Multiple Choice Questions in a High-stakes Medical Exam
Le An Ha | Victoria Yaneva | Peter Baldwin | Janet Mee
Proceedings of the Fourteenth Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications

Predicting the construct-relevant difficulty of Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) has the potential to reduce cost while maintaining the quality of high-stakes exams. In this paper, we propose a method for estimating the difficulty of MCQs from a high-stakes medical exam, where all questions were deliberately written to a common reading level. To accomplish this, we extract a large number of linguistic features and embedding types, as well as features quantifying the difficulty of the items for an automatic question-answering system. The results show that the proposed approach outperforms various baselines with a statistically significant difference. Best results were achieved when using the full feature set, where embeddings had the highest predictive power, followed by linguistic features. An ablation study of the various types of linguistic features suggested that information from all levels of linguistic processing contributes to predicting item difficulty, with features related to semantic ambiguity and the psycholinguistic properties of words having a slightly higher importance. Owing to its generic nature, the presented approach has the potential to generalize over other exams containing MCQs.