Nick Haber


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Generating and Evaluating Tests for K-12 Students with Language Model Simulations: A Case Study on Sentence Reading Efficiency
Eric Zelikman | Wanjing Ma | Jasmine Tran | Diyi Yang | Jason Yeatman | Nick Haber
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Developing an educational test can be expensive and time-consuming, as each item must be written by experts and then evaluated by collecting hundreds of student responses. Moreover, many tests require multiple distinct sets of questions administered throughout the school year to closely monitor students’ progress, known as parallel tests. In this study, we focus on tests of silent sentence reading efficiency, used to assess students’ reading ability over time. To generate high-quality parallel tests, we propose to fine-tune large language models (LLMs) to simulate how previous students would have responded to unseen items. With these simulated responses, we can estimate each item’s difficulty and ambiguity. We first use GPT-4 to generate new test items following a list of expert-developed rules and then apply a fine-tuned LLM to filter the items based on criteria from psychological measurements. We also propose an optimal-transport-inspired technique for generating parallel tests and show the generated tests closely correspond to the original test’s difficulty and reliability based on crowdworker responses. Our evaluation of a generated test with 234 students from grades 2 to 8 produces test scores highly correlated (r=0.93) to those of a standard test form written by human experts and evaluated across thousands of K-12 students.