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In the process of designing a quiz application that can assess the student for understanding of a particular concept, I came across Item Response Theory. I have absolutely no clue whether applying this would make my life easy or will complicate further. Till now I''ve been able to find few papers, blogs and also noted a few books on this topic. But I am not able to figure out what should I start with. Any good material to understand what this beast is in layman's terms? Also, it would be great if anyone could help me know what other tools towards similar end can be used.

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To help you get started with IRT, consider getting Baker's book. You can also get a free download of his software. It is a self-directed learning tool and you might find it quite useful to start your understanding of this field.

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As well, to understand IRT with some coding examples there is some material for R around. For example, this wiki for the mirt package contains slides, examples, and exercise files (answered and unanswered) which may be helpful to understand an apply IRT in your research.

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