Differentiate between norm vs criterion as referenced in testing. Give multiple points in your answer.

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Both norm-referenced testing and criterion-referenced testing seek to assess students; however, they differ in what they are measuring.

Norm-referenced testing seeks to rank students based on test achievement. Essentially, norm-referenced testing is comparing a student's score against the scores of the thousands of other students that have taken the test. If a student scored better than everybody else that took the test, it would be equivalent to an athlete getting the gold medal in the Olympics. It's important to note that norm-referenced testing doesn't necessarily accurately show student learning and mastery of skills. It simply shows how a student stacks up against other students that have taken the test. This is why it is generally important to have a large sample pool of students taking this kind of test.

Criterion-referenced testing attempts to measure the skills and knowledge that a student has mastered. Generally, the score is given as a percentage. For example, if a test has 100 questions, and the student gets 99 of them correct, the student scores a 99%. This kind of test can be given to small groups or large groups because it isn't comparing students to each other. The test is assessing student learning against predetermined criteria or learning standards. Generally speaking, tests and quizzes that a classroom teacher gives to classes over the course of the school year are this kind of test.

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The difference between Criterion and Norm-referenced testing is mainly the way in which the data is analyzed and used after getting the scores back.

The NRT (Norm-Referenced Test) takes the information produced by the student data and compares the performance of the student with that of other test takers that have already taken that same test.

  • That group of students is called the "norm" group, which could also be considered as a form of "control" group.
  • The scores of NRTs are often presented in percentages or percentiles.
  • It is mostly a placement and comparison type of testing. An example of an NRT is the SAT.

Criterion-Referenced tests (CRTs) are tests that determines the mastery of the student in a specific skill. The skill is what is referred to as the "criterion."

  • Since these tests seek for mastery, they are often given to people seeking a specific licensure, certification, or endorsement for which the CRT data will show the mastery on a specific skill.
  • Scores are reported as pass/fail, and not in percentiles.
  • Cut offs for pass/fail scores are determined by test administrators.
  • An example of a CRT is the Washington State MSPs (Measurement of Student Progress) which was used to comply with NCLB.


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