A recent study by Baye and Monseur (Large Scale Assess Educ 4:1–16, 2016) using large, international educational data sets suggest that the “greater male variation hypothesis” is well supported. Males are often over-represented at the tails of the ability distribution despite similarity in measures of central tendency and the gradual closing of the attainment gap relative to females. In this study, we replicate and expand Baye and Monseur’s work, and explore greater male variability by country using meta-analysis and meta-regression. While we broadly confirm that variability is greater for males internationally, we find that there is significant heterogeneity between countries, and that much of this can be quantified using variables applicable across these assessments (such as test, year, male–female effect size, mean country score and Global Gender Gap Indicators). While it is still not possible to make any causal conclusions regarding why males are more varied than females in academic assessments, it is possible to show that some national level variables effect the magnitude of this variation. Results and suggestions for further work are discussed.