A general diagnostic model applied to language testing data


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Matthias von Davier, Research & Development, Educational Testing Service, Rosedale Road, MS 02-T, Princeton, NJ 08541, USA (e-mail: mvondavier@ets.org).


Probabilistic models with one or more latent variables are designed to report on a corresponding number of skills or cognitive attributes. Multidimensional skill profiles offer additional information beyond what a single test score can provide, if the reported skills can be identified and distinguished reliably. Many recent approaches to skill profile models are limited to dichotomous data and have made use of computationally intensive estimation methods such as Markov chain Monte Carlo, since standard maximum likelihood (ML) estimation techniques were deemed infeasible. This paper presents a general diagnostic model (GDM) that can be estimated with standard ML techniques and applies to polytomous response variables as well as to skills with two or more proficiency levels. The paper uses one member of a larger class of diagnostic models, a compensatory diagnostic model for dichotomous and partial credit data. Many well-known models, such as univariate and multivariate versions of the Rasch model and the two-parameter logistic item response theory model, the generalized partial credit model, as well as a variety of skill profile models, are special cases of this GDM. In addition to an introduction to this model, the paper presents a parameter recovery study using simulated data and an application to real data from the field test for TOEFL® Internet-based testing.