Many of the next generation of global climate models will include aerosol schemes which explicitly simulate the microphysical processes that determine the particle size distribution. These models enable aerosol optical properties and cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) concentrations to be determined by fundamental aerosol processes, which should lead to a more physically based simulation of aerosol direct and indirect radiative forcings. This study examines the global variation in particle size distribution simulated by 12 global aerosol microphysics models to quantify model diversity and to identify any common biases against observations. Evaluation against size distribution measurements from a new European network of aerosol supersites shows that the mean model agrees quite well with the observations at many sites on the annual mean, but there are some seasonal biases common to many sites. In particular, at many of these European sites, the accumulation mode number concentration is biased low during winter and Aitken mode concentrations tend to be overestimated in winter and underestimated in summer. At high northern latitudes, the models strongly underpredict Aitken and accumulation particle concentrations compared to the measurements, consistent with previous studies that have highlighted the poor performance of global aerosol models in the Arctic. In the marine boundary layer, the models capture the observed meridional variation in the size distribution, which is dominated by the Aitken mode at high latitudes, with an increasing concentration of accumulation particles with decreasing latitude. Considering vertical profiles, the models reproduce the observed peak in total particle concentrations in the upper troposphere due to new particle formation, although modelled peak concentrations tend to be biased high over Europe. Overall, the multi-model-mean data set simulates the global variation of the particle size distribution with a good degree of skill, suggesting that most of the individual global aerosol microphysics models are performing well, although the large model diversity indicates that some models are in poor agreement with the observations. Further work is required to better constrain size-resolved primary and secondary particle number sources, and an improved understanding of nucleation and growth (e.g. the role of nitrate and secondary organics) will improve the fidelity of simulated particle size distributions.