Identifying an Appropriate Measurement Modeling Approach for the Mini-Mental State Examination

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The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is a 30-item, dichotomously scored test of general cognition. A number of benefits could be gained by modeling the MMSE in an item response theory (IRT) framework, as opposed to the currently used classical additive approach. However, the test, which is built from groups of items related to separate cognitive subdomains, may violate a key assumption of IRT: local item independence. This study aimed to identify the most appropriate measurement model for the MMSE: a unidimensional IRT model, a testlet response theory model, or a bifactor model. Local dependence analysis using nationally representative data showed a meaningful violation of the local item independence assumption, indicating multidimensionality. In addition, the testlet and bifactor models displayed superior fit indices over a unidimensional IRT model. Statistical comparisons showed that the bifactor model fit MMSE respondent data significantly better than the other models considered. These results suggest that application of a traditional unidimensional IRT model is inappropriate in this context. Instead, a bifactor model is suggested for future modeling of MMSE data as it more accurately represents the multidimensional nature of the scale.

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