Abstract The paper uses data from the combined TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) assessment in 2011 to explore the subject-specific strengths and weaknesses among fourth grade students worldwide. Previous research came to the conclusion that students only differed in overall achievement levels and did not exhibit subject-specific strengths and weaknesses. This research did, however, not control for differences in overall performance levels when searching for profile differences. Therefore, the present study uses factor mixture analysis to study qualitatively different performance profiles in mathematics, reading, and science while controlling for differences in performance levels. Our findings suggest that the majority of students do not show pronounced strengths and weaknesses and differ mainly in performance levels across mathematics, reading, and science. At the same time, a smaller share of students does indeed show pronounced subject-specific strengths and weaknesses. This result does not represent an artefact, but we find clear and theory-conforming associations between the identified profiles and covariates. We find evidence for cross-country differences in the frequency of subject-specific strengths and weaknesses and gender differences, as well as differences between students who do not or only sometimes speak the language of test at home.
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