A Guide to Norm-Referenced Tests

A norm-referenced test is often used to determine a student’s position in relation to an average student. This process is often referred to as relative grading or marking on a curve. 

If you are still confused, we will be discussing norm-referenced testing in more detail below. We will also mention how these tests can be used and the main differences between them and criterion-referenced tests. 

What Is A Norm-Referenced Test?

A norm-referenced test (also called a standardized test) is designed to rank and compare students with one another. As we have already mentioned, these tests determine whether a particular student performs better than an average student. This is done by comparing their score to a group of selected test-takers (usually the same grade level and age). These scores are generally displayed as a percentile ranking or percentage.  

These tests are more often than not multiple choice – however, some do contain short-answer questions. For example, IQ tests are the most commonly taken and most well-known form of norm-referenced tests.

How Norm-Referenced Tests May Be Used

Norm-referenced tests are used for a wide variety of purposes. Below, we will mention a few of the most common applications of these types of tests and how they are suited for each purpose:

  • To determine whether or not a child is ready for preschool. These specific tests often contain very basic questions to measure language ability, social development, and gross motor skill development.
  • To evaluate basic skills, such as writing and reading. Some students are required to take these types of tests to determine whether they need academic support. 
  • To identify particular learning disabilities, including dyslexia and autism. Students all over the world struggle with learning disabilities. Specialists will often ask them to complete norm-referenced tests to diagnose them with these disabilities. 

Norm-Referenced Vs. Criterion-Referenced Tests

In short, a norm-referenced test is designed to rank a student based on the average performance of other students. On the other hand, a criterion-referenced test is designed to measure performance against a fixed set of standards.

To be more specific, norm-referenced tests are often used to measure skills and knowledge based on multiple sources, including texts and syllabi. Criterion-referenced tests enable the tester to measure how well a person understands particular concepts.

Concluding Thoughts

A norm-referenced test is often used to measure the skills and knowledge of a particular person. Their test is then compared to the average result, allowing them to be ranked according to their capabilities. These tests can be used to determine whether or not a child is ready for preschool, evaluate basic skills, and identify learning disabilities.

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