Criterion-Referenced Tests Versus Norm-Referenced Tests

The battle of the titans: criterion-referenced test vs. Norm-referenced test. Robert Glaser, an American psychologist dedicated to the educational field, devised the terms for both of these methods of assessment, but how exactly do they work? What is it about them that makes them stand out from one another? We answer your questions in this article, examining the characteristics of both along the way.

When it comes to a climax between the criterion-referenced test vs. Norm-referenced test, the battle is one that can be won by a different party depending on the nature of the circumstances.

Criterion-referenced tests measure how well the examinee did by comparing their results with a set collection of criteria. The intention of this is to look at how well the student can carry out a specific skill or task, or a multitude of skills and tasks. However, in Norm-referenced testing, there is no pre-set standard to measure performance.

In this instance, instead of having a mark scheme that was defined beforehand, examinees are compared with others who sat the same exam. For example, the top 10% of performers out of the total who completed the paper would be awarded the highest grade. This ensures fairness for students who faced a particularly difficult paper one year, as they are not disadvantaged when compared with those who sat the easier paper the previous term.

One of the advantages of Norm-referenced tests is that students can quickly be organized into an order based upon their level of attainment. This list can be used for colleges to award entry to certain courses for those who performed well. They may deny access for those who fell below a certain % on the scale, the bottom 5%, say, may have to look elsewhere for admittance.

Because there is a set of values for criterion-referenced tests that must be achieved in order to be granted a 'pass' or 'fail' grade, they are often used when doing something like learning to drive. The reasoning behind this is that there isn't usually a limit on the number of people who can be given the qualification, whereas colleges have to deal with a quota of places they can afford to fill - it would be impossible for them to facilitate every one, so there must be a cut-off line in place.

When you look at comparing the two: criterion-referenced test vs Norm-referenced test, there really are more differences than you would expect to find. In truth, it's a battle that isn't there to be won, but rather in place to provide the fairest mark scheme possible based upon the given circumstances. Those who achieve highly need to be given their reward when places are limited.

You can be sure that more flexibility would be given if numbers weren't so tight, but with more and more applicants for top places at leading educational institutions, such boundaries are necessary. If being assessed to see if you're worthy of a specific certificate/qualification, though, you don't need to be concerned about anyone else's results - this isn't measured with criterion-referenced testing. Just ensure your own standards merit a 'pass' grade!