In educational large-scale assessment studies such as PISA, item response theory (IRT) models are used to summarize students’ performance on cognitive test items across countries. In this article, the impact of the choice of the IRT model on the distribution parameters of countries (i.e., mean, standard deviation, percentiles) is investigated. Eleven different IRT models are compared using information criteria. Moreover, model uncertainty is quantified by estimating model error, which can be compared with the sampling error associated with the sampling of students. The PISA 2009 dataset for the cognitive domains mathematics, reading, and science is used as an example of the choice of the IRT model. It turned out that the three-parameter logistic IRT model with residual heterogeneity and a three-parameter IRT model with a quadratic effect of the ability θ provided the best model fit. Furthermore, model uncertainty was relatively small compared to sampling error regarding country means in most cases but was substantial for country standard deviations and percentiles. Consequently, it can be argued that model error should be included in the statistical inference of educational large-scale assessment studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number760
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 27.05.2022
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    Research areas

  • Methodological research and method development - item response model, scaling, PISA, model uncertainty

ID: 1987253