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Is GPA fair? An investigation into inter-subject difficulty using Norwegian registry data (PhD-project)

Ensuring consistency in difficulties across GPA subjects is important for upholding public confidence in Norway's university entry process. Studies overseas, however, reported sizeable differences between difficulty levels, effectively penalising candidates in subjects with more stringent grading systems. By detecting inter-subject difficulties, this project explores possible statistical procedures for re-aligning grades to a common scale

Illustration with title:  Apple and orange fruit tea.

Not all exam subjects are the same. But do they contribute to candidates' GPA evenly? If not, how to adjust in order to enhance fairness?

Illustration: Colourbox.

About the project

This project uses item response theory to ascertain the difficulty parameter of each GPA subject and compare them for inconsistency. It then investigates possible statistical techniques to re-calibrate subject difficulties to a common scale to ensure no penalty or advantages in subject choice beyond personal competency.


Unlike their counterpart in the USA who assign considerable weights to extra-curriculum activities and reference letters in addition to academic performance, universities in Norway use applicants' grade point averages (GPA) as the sole selection criterion. Multiple studies overseas, however, have demonstrated that GPA in their unadjusted form can be highly variable in difficulties across subjects, causing considerable fairness concerns.

Published Oct. 7, 2021 1:22 PM - Last modified Sep. 22, 2022 10:46 AM