A Guide to Criterion-Referenced Tests

A criterion-referenced test is used for a variety of purposes and in a wide array of situations. Contrary to popular belief, these assessments are very different when compared to norm-referenced tests.

This article will discuss precisely what a criterion-referenced test is and what it is used for. More so, we will mention how these tests differ from norm-referenced tests. 

What Is A Criterion-Referenced Test?

In short, a criterion-referenced test is an assessment that can be used to measure or determine a student’s performance based on a set of fixed and predetermined criteria. In other words, their results are compared to written descriptions of what the students are expected to know at that particular stage in their academic life. 

As we have already mentioned, these types of tests can be used for a variety of purposes. Some schools use criterion-referenced tests to determine whether or not students have the acquired knowledge or skill sets for admission. If the student receives a result that is above expectations, they will pass. If their result is below what is expected of them, they fail. 

Criterion Vs. Norm-Referenced Test

Many people do not understand the difference between a criterion and a norm-referenced test. In basic terms, a norm-referenced assessment is designed to rank students based on a bell curve. Their results are compared to that of other students, which helps determine whether they are above or below average academically. This differs from criterion-referenced tests, as the comparative data is not fixed or predetermined. 

How Are Criterion-Referenced Scores Used?

  • To determine whether or not students have expected knowledge and skills. The most common application of criterion-referenced tests is to understand and monitor students’ development as they pass from grade to grade. These assessments are often used to make decisions regarding diplomas, certificates, or promotion eligibility. 
  • To identify learning gaps. These tests can be used to identify weak spots when it comes to the academic program of students. If many students fail a criterion-referenced test, the teacher will know that the section tested by the assessment is a weak spot. 
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of teachers. If a large group of students fails a criterion-referenced test, the school will know that the teacher in charge of that section does not do an adequate job. 

Concluding Thoughts

A criterion-referenced test is an assessment that can be used to determine a student’s performance based on a set of predetermined criteria. These tests differ when compared to norm-referenced tests, which compare the student’s results to the average result of a group of students. Criterion-referenced tests can be used for various purposes, such as identifying weak spots in the academic program.

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