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A Primer on Setting Cut Scores on Tests of Educational Achievement

Zieky, Michael J.; Perie, Marianne
Publication Year:
ETS Publication
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Subject/Key Words:
Achievement Tests Angoff Method Cut Scores Nedelsky Method


This primer is designed for educators and policymakers who need a basic understanding of the issues that must be faced and the decisions that must be made in setting cut scores on widely used tests of educational achievement, such as district and state assessments. Cut scores are selected points on the score scale of a test. The points are used to determine whether a particular test score is sufficient for some purpose. For example, student performance on a test may be classified into one of several categories such as basic, proficient, or advanced on the basis of cut scores. The setting of cut scores on widely used tests in educational contexts requires the involvement of policymakers, educators, measurement professionals, and others in a multi-stage, judgmental process. Cut scores should be based on a generally accepted methodology and reflect the judgments of qualified people. This primer outlines several methodologies that are commonly used in educational measurement, gives criteria for selecting qualified individuals to set standards, and outlines the issues that need to be considered in setting scores. No knowledge of measurement or statistics is required of readers.

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