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Standard Setting

Standard setting is concerned with setting a cut off score that separates the competent from the non-competent student on a test or performance based assessment. It is a process that involves agreement by experts in the course or subject what constitutes competent versus non-competent taking into account the content taught and year of study 1.

There are various approaches in standard setting for both written and performance based assessment to support a fair process in coming to an agreement of what constitutes good enough to be considered competent 3.

The references below discusses the different approaches used in standard setting which can help the lecturer to make an informed choice of which method to use that best supports the selected assessment method 2.


  1. Friedman Ben-David, M. (2000). AMEE Guide No.18: Standard setting in student assessment. Medical Teacher, 22(2) 120-130.
  2. Norcini, J. (2003). Setting standards on educational tests. Medical Education, 37:464–469.
  3. Southgate, L., Hays, R.B., Norcini, J., Mulholland, H., Ayers, B., Woolliscroft, H., Cusimano, M., McAvoy, P., Ainsworth, M., Haist, S. and Campbell, M. (2001). Setting performance standards for medical practice: a theoretical framework. Medical Education, 35: 474-481.