Whereas recruits who join as officers tend to be upwardly-mobile,[14][15] most enlisted personnel have a childhood background of relative socio-economic deprivation.[16][17][18] For example, after the US suspended conscription in 1973, "the military disproportionately attracted African American men, men from lower-status socioeconomic backgrounds, men who had been in nonacademic high school programs, and men whose high school grades tended to be low".[14]

The IRT model underlying ASVAB scoring is the three-parameter logistic (3PL) model. The 3PL model represents the probability that an examinee at a given level of ability will respond correctly to an individual item with given characteristics. Specifically, the item characteristics represented in the 3PL model are difficulty, discrimination (i.e., how well the item discriminates among examinees of differing levels of ability), and guessing (i.e., the likelihood that a very low ability examinee would respond correctly simply by guessing).

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