A standard setting method with the best performing students as point of reference: Practical and affordable

Janke Cohen-Schotanus*, Cees P. M. van der Vleuten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aim: To discuss the (dis)advantages of commonly used criterion and norm-referenced methods and present a new compromise method: standards based on a fixed cut-off score using the best scoring students as reference point. Methods: Historical data from 54 Maastricht (norm-referenced) and 52 Groningen (criterion-referenced) tests were used to demonstrate huge discrepancies and variability in cut-off scores and failure rates. Subsequently, the compromise model - known as Cohen's method - was applied to the Groningen tests. Results: The Maastricht norm-referenced method led to a large variation in required cut-off scores (15-46%), but a stable failure rate (about 17%). The Groningen method with a conventional, pre-fixed standard of 60% led to a large variation in failure rates (17-97%). The compromise method reduced variation in required cut-off scores as well as failure rates. Conclusion: Both the criterion and norm-referenced standards, used in practice, have disadvantages. The proposed compromise model reduces the disadvantages of both methods and is considered more acceptable. Last but not least, compared to standard setting methods using panels, this method is affordable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-160
JournalMedical Teacher
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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