Do You Mean What I Mean? Cultural Factors and Vocabulary Knowledge


  • Nora Liza Abdul Kadir Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
  • SitiRahayah Ariffin Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia


Differential Item Functioning (DIF), intelligence test, vocabulary, ethnic background, cultural background


The focus of this research is to see if one’s cultural factors do influence their performance in answering items in an intelligence test done in one of the public universities in Malaysia. It is an instrument used to measure one’s intelligence level and it is designed based on the Raven Standard Progressive Matrices – Plus Version and Mill Vocabulary. This is a quantitative study where the participants were selected using simple random sampling method. 773 students from one of the public universities in Malaysia, of different ethnic backgrounds (545 Malays, 228 non-Malays) from eight faculties have taken this test. The data obtained was analysed using Winsteps version 3.64.2, and in the 88 vocabulary items (open ended and multiple-choice questions), race-related DIF was found in a number of items. It could be concluded that cultural factors do influence the students’ ability in answering the intelligence test, which means that elements of bias due to incompatible cultural factors between the test builders and test takers do exist. It is hoped that those involved in testing to be more aware of the possibility of unintentional bias towards one’s race occurring in test papers, and to be more sensitive in constructing items in any instruments that is used to measure one’s ability.


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How to Cite

Kadir, N. L. A., & Ariffin, S. (2019). Do You Mean What I Mean? Cultural Factors and Vocabulary Knowledge. Asian Journal of Assessment in Teaching and Learning, 4, 1–18. Retrieved from