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Psychometrics and SEM


Admission Requirements

VWO mathematics.


Many attributes of individual subjects, such as extroversion, verbal intelligence, quality of life, spatial ability, cannot be measured directly. These attributes are latent and can only be gauged via the measurement of manifest variables which are contingent upon them. Latent variable models make this possible. This course will provide you with in-depth knowledge of latent variable models and you will learn to work with them. During the course, you will work on the analysis of empirical data and make exercises about the theory. Substantive issues are only cursorily discussed; this is primarily an applied statistics course. In this course we work mainly with test data. A test consists of a number of separate items--- questions to be answered or problems to be solved. The responses to these items are used to obtain a score that approximates the subject's level on a latent variable. Behavioral and life scientists are interested in various aspects of these scores. In particular one may want to know something about its meaning, reliability, validity, and the best way to obtain such a score. To this end latent variable models for tests and item responses have been developed. An important topic in psychometrics is the study of (causal) relations between these latent variables, where relations are usually modeled by regression equations. Structural equation models (sem) allow the researcher to specify a relation structure on a set of directly or indirectly measured variables. The parameters of such SEM's can be estimated and the fit of the model tested.
The course has three parts: Part I deals with traditional test theory, Part II with modern test theory, Part III with structural equations models. The first is most often used practice, but the second is more statistically sound and has a usefulness that goes far beyond that of traditional test theory. Some more advanced applications of modern test theory, such as adaptive testing and equating the scores of different tests, are discussed at the end of Part II. The final part combines latent variables in a system of regression equations. Both classical and modern measurement models can be integrated into SEM’s. All computations and simulations will be performed with R.

Course objectives

This cours will provide you with an in-depth knowledge of latent variable models and you will learn to work with them by analyzing test data.

Time Table

See the Leiden University students' website for the Statistical Science programme -> Schedules 2018-2019

Mode of Instruction

Each week there is a lecture about the topic to be studied. Outside the lectures time should be spent on making exercises about the text: questions, derivations, and simulations and analysing empirical data. This work may be done in small groups of two or three students.

Furthermore, students are advised to read the designated text before each meeting.

Method of Assessment

The final grade depends on open-book written exam 100% and three assignments (pass/fail), one for each part of the course. Assignments are completed and submitted at the end of each part. In the final week a presentation is given over the material of the whole course.

Course credits will be obtained when the exam is graded by at least a 6, and one passes each of the assignments each simply graded OK (1), not OK (0). The assignments are reports on the analysis of test data with: I classical test theory, II modern test theory, III structural equation models.

Empirical data is provided by the lecturer. You may also analyze your own data if they are appropriate for this course.

Date information about the exam and resit can be found in the Time Table pdf document under the tab “Masters Programme” at The room and building for the exam will be announced on the electronic billboard, to be found at the opposite of the entrance, the content can also be viewed here

Reading List

  • McDonald R. P. (1999). Test Theory: A Unified Treatment, London: Lawrence Erlbaum.

  • Computer manuals (to be announced during the course).


Enroll in Blackboard for the course materials and course updates.

To be able to obtain a grade and the EC for the course, sign up for the (re-)exam in uSis ten calendar days before the actual (re-)exam will take place. Note, the student is expected to participate actively in all activities of the program and therefore uses and registers for the first exam opportunity.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Kelderman [at] fsw [dot] leidenuniv [dot] nl


  • This is an elective course of the Master Statistical Science for the Life and Behavioural sciences.