Norm vs. Criterion Referenced Tests

At the start of this course we were tasked to define and differentiate norm versus criterion referenced testing. Most of the materials I’ve read (and the posts of my classsmates) expounded on the scoring interpretation of these two types of tests. It is only through more detailed readings later (due to a question on issues confronting both tests) that I learned that the construction of these tests also varies significantly. Below are some major differences as extracted from the internet. Source is cited at the end of this article.

Norm vs. criterion referenced tests

Norm referenced test
– compares a students’ performance against that of a normative group

Test Purpose:
a. covers a broad cross section of the whole content domain
b. breadth but not depth (a lot of content gets covered, but no content is covered in depth)

Assessment Framework :
a. level of specificity of content is more global (larger grain size)
b. greater flexibility in item development/selection

Item Development/Selection:
a. items should maximize distribution of performance and discrimination among high/low ability learners
b. employs items of moderate difficulty and maximum discrimination
c. number of items for any specific objective is low

Score interpretation
a. results show “big picture” at level of content domain or subdomain
b. report by derived scores such as scale scores
c. Important for policy decisions

Citerion referenced Test
-compares a students’ performance against a content or performance standard

Test Purpose:
a. measures a narrower cross section of content domain
b. content is limited but what is measured is measured well.
c. depth but not breadth (intended to measure the content well enough to make important decisions regarding passing or promotions)

Assessment Framework
a. level of specificity of content is more focused (smaller grain size)
b. more limited flexibility in item development/selection

Item Development/Selection
a. items should align with content and performance standards
b. eliminates poor items and selects on contents
c. number of items for any specific objective can be substantial

Score interpretation
a. focused results reporting both “percentage meeting overall standards” or “percentage mastering a specific objective or cluster of objectives”
b. important for instructional decisions

Bourque (2006). Reflections on Norm-Referenced vs. Criterion-Referenced Testing in an NCLB Environment. Retrieved Nov. 10, 2013from http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/commit/c530/handouts06/100406.c530.BourqueML.pdf

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