The linear transformation model with frailties for the analysis of item response times


Chun Wang, 603 E. Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820, USA (e-mail:


The item response times (RTs) collected from computerized testing represent an underutilized source of information about items and examinees. In addition to knowing the examinees’ responses to each item, we can investigate the amount of time examinees spend on each item. In this paper, we propose a semi-parametric model for RTs, the linear transformation model with a latent speed covariate, which combines the flexibility of non-parametric modelling and the brevity as well as interpretability of parametric modelling. In this new model, the RTs, after some non-parametric monotone transformation, become a linear model with latent speed as covariate plus an error term. The distribution of the error term implicitly defines the relationship between the RT and examinees’ latent speeds; whereas the non-parametric transformation is able to describe various shapes of RT distributions. The linear transformation model represents a rich family of models that includes the Cox proportional hazards model, the Box–Cox normal model, and many other models as special cases. This new model is embedded in a hierarchical framework so that both RTs and responses are modelled simultaneously. A two-stage estimation method is proposed. In the first stage, the Markov chain Monte Carlo method is employed to estimate the parametric part of the model. In the second stage, an estimating equation method with a recursive algorithm is adopted to estimate the non-parametric transformation. Applicability of the new model is demonstrated with a simulation study and a real data application. Finally, methods to evaluate the model fit are suggested.