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A Comparative Study of Standard-Setting Methods

Livingston, Samuel A.; Zieky, Michael J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Achievement Tests, Basic Skills Assessment, Cutting Scores, Evaluation Methods, Measurement Techniques, Nedelsky Method, Scoring, Standards


Four different systematic methods for selecting passing scores which differ primarily in the types of judgment they require were compared. The borderline group method and the contrasting groups method were each compared with the Nedelsky method at four schools and the Angoff method at another four schools. The Basic Skills Assessment Tests in reading and mathematics were administered for the study. The project was designed to determine whether different methods yield similar passing scores and, if not, whether the differences between them are systematic and predictable. The Nedelsky and Angoff methods are based upon judgments about test items. The borderline and contrasting group methods produce similar results when approximately equal numbers of students are classified as masters and non-masters. The contrasting group passing score produced different results when the ratio of masters to non-masters fluctuated. The Nedelsky and Angoff methods produced inconsistent results across schools. The passing scores were higher at schools with more able students. Results of the study suggest that those who set passing scores should use methods based upon test scores of actual test takers whenever possible. (Author/DWH). (57pp.)

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