Establishing Passing Standards for Classroom Achievement Tests in Medical Education: A Comparative Study of Four Methods

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The purpose of this research was to evaluate the Direct Borderline standard-setting method, designed for classroom instructor use, and to compare the characteristics of this newer method to three well-established methods. Most standard-setting methods were designed for large-scale assessments, and most research has taken place in the context of high-stakes examinations.


Four absolute standard-setting methods (Nedelsky, Direct Borderline, Hofstee, and Ebel) were studied for year 1 and 2 basic science examinations.


The Direct Borderline method produced passing scores similar to the Nedelsky method and was reproducible. The Hofstee and Ebel methods produced the lowest passing scores. Standard errors at the passing score were the same or lower for the Direct Borderline method compared with the Nedelsky method.


The Direct Borderline method has reasonable psychometric characteristics and may be practical for faculty to use in establishing absolute passing standards for classroom achievement tests.

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